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Ubiquitous PDF: Living Will forms dictate health-care decisions

March 23, 2005

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Despite their best intentions, the majority of people never make the time to write a living will or produce other legally binding "advance directive" documentation that would guide their medical care if they become seriously ill and can no longer make important end-of-life decisions for themselves.

News events this past week, however, have prompted many to find the time to do so -- and in some cases, to download related information and even the required forms, frequently posted in PDF for easy completion and printing (or vice versa).

No matter one's opinion on the long ordeal -- on an individual's right-to-die, the nationally broadcast family conflicts and the repeated government intervention -- in the 15-year-long struggle of and over Terri Schiavo, who may be facing death soon after having her feeding tube removed several days ago, most will agree they'd rather avoid such a controversial fate. And having some sort of living will-type document prepared in advance, as had not been done by Schiavo, would in most cases suffice.

Recent news coverage of the Schiavo case has highlighted a number of organizations offering guidance and example forms for detailing the kind of information needed by one's family and doctors. One such non-profit organization is Aging With Dignity, which offers a "Five Wishes" program and 12-page document that guides one to let others know your important preferences for:

Five Wishes living will

  1. Which person you want to make health-care decisions for you when you can't make them
  2. The kind of medical treatment you want or don't want
  3. How comfortable you want to be
  4. How you want people to treat you
  5. What you want your loved ones to know

The Five Wishes form, which meets the legal requirements in the vast majority of states, is available for purchase from the Web site for $5 per single copy or $1 for order of 25 or more copies. A non-printable demo version is available for download in PDF, with versions in both English [PDF: ] and Spanish.

Five Wishes living will

A Google search will easily provide pointers to other sites offering similar (often-free) living will [PDF: 47kb] and advance directive [PDF: 32kb] forms -- but make sure any form you use meets your state's requirements.

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