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What is a living will and do I need one?

An Oklahoma living will tells medical professionals exactly what types of life-sustaining treatments they can or cannot use on a patient who is terminally ill or injured and who will not survive without any treatment. Some states even allow the directive to apply to conditions that would leave the person permanently unconscious with no detectable brain activity. The law requires at least two medical professionals to agree on the person's condition before enacting these directives.

The living will has no effect on the treatment of the person's pain or comfort. It can, however, provide directives on whether the medical professionals can use feeding tubes, ventilators, heart-lung machines or other medical devices to sustain the person's life. One important thing to remember is that it can prevent the person from continuing treatment of an existing breathing problem if it prohibits the use of that type of device.

In most states, a living will can direct medical professionals on other areas of medical treatment when the person is unable to do so. This ensures that they follow the person's wishes for what forms of treatment that they want. This can help people to ensure that their treatment does not violate any of their religious or philosophical beliefs.

When a person becomes incapacitated, a living will would be the only way for that person to be sure that the medical professionals use only the life-extending treatments that he or she has approved. An attorney could explain exactly what powers a living will can have in Oklahoma and help the person outline exactly which forms of treatment are acceptable.

Source: American Bar Association, "Living Wills, Health Care Proxies, & Advance Health Care Directives", November 30, 2014

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