Tracey Tremayne-Lloyd, BA, LL.B,
More than just the catch-phrase of the day, 'Living Wills' appeared to be the answer for increasing patient control in end-of-life decisions, and a much sought-after solution for an aging population (but one that is increasingly sophisticated about treatment options). The issue of Living Wills was explored in the May/June 1998 edition of Geriatrics and Aging in an article entitled 'Living Wills Ease Patient's Fear' by Lawrence J. Papoff (please see our web site www.geriatricsandaging.com for this article). Recent research has demonstrated that the Living Will is an instrument well-liked by physicians and patients for its capacity to empower patients with independence when facing a life-threatening condition, but it is still surprisingly under-used. It is important for physicians treating geriatric patients to be aware of the extent to which Living Wills can be incorporated into their practice, and to consider their role in educating patients about the issue.
A Living Will is nothing more than a written document that speaks for your patient after he or she becomes incapable of making or communicating his or her own health care decisions.