Should You Have a Living Will?

None of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.

Romans 14:7-8

Do not cast me away when I am old; do not forsake me when my strength is gone.

Psalm 71:9

What is a Living Will? Why would a Christian need a Living Will?

The Living Will is a document that allows a patient to give instructions about the medical care they desire to receive at a future time. Living Wills are needed in the event we can no longer communicate for ourselves and we have deteriorated into a terminal condition of permanent unconsciousness or incapacity. This is often referred to as a “persistent vegetative state”.

Sometimes, you will hear living wills called “Advance Medical Directives”. The terms are synonymous.

Principles of a Christian Living Will

It is simply not possible for a Living Will to address every possible medical and moral issue that could occur. Even if a Living Will cannot address every circumstance, it can address principles.

A truly Christian Living Will addresses five key principles:

  1. The desire for pain relief,
  2. Assessing treatments as either ordinary or extraordinary,
  3. Providing nutrition and hydration,
  4. Prohibiting euthanasia, and
  5. Providing for spiritual care.

The Christian Living Will is not only individualized and patient-centered. It also avoids the dangers of a secular living will which deny patients proper end-of-life care.

The Gospel of Life & Dying to the Lord

Saint Pope John Paul II wrote “The Gospel of Life” (Evangelium Vitae) in 1995. It specifically addressed “the Value and Inviolability of Human Life”. This is what the Pope had to say concerning the principles of a Living Will:

“None of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s” (Rom 14:7-8).

Dying to the Lord means experiencing one’s death as the supreme act of obedience to the Father (cf. Phil 2:8), being ready to meet death at the “hour” willed and chosen by him (cf. Jn 13:1), which can only mean when one’s earthly pilgrimage is completed.

Living to the Lord also means recognizing that suffering, while still an evil and a trial in itself, can always become a source of good. It becomes such if it is experienced for love and with love through sharing, by God’s gracious gift and one’s own personal and free choice, in the suffering of Christ Crucified.

In this way, the person who lives his suffering in the Lord grows more fully conformed to him (cf. Phil 3:10; 1 Pet 2:21) and more closely associated with his redemptive work on behalf of the Church and humanity.

Saint Pope John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae, paragraph 67

Living Wills & The Danger of Euthanasia

As Christians, we cannot direct our families and loved ones to commit Euthanasia. Therefore, Living Wills should not include a statement refusing nutrition and hydration in the event that one is diagnosed in a persistent vegetative state.

Morally speaking, we must always seek ordinary and proportionate care. We can, however, choose to avoid extraordinary measures to sustain and prolong life.

Living Wills & Health Care Proxies

A Health Care Proxy along with a Living Will may be the best possible combination. You can choose a Health Care Proxy, a living person, who will make health care decisions in real time on your behalf if you are rendered unable to do so.

The Health Care Proxy or Surrogate is typically a family member or other loved one. Your Health Care Proxy should be reasonably able to make decisions in accord with our known wishes and with our best medical and spiritual interests in mind.

Filling out a form to designate our Health Care Proxy is a sensible way to prepare for difficult end-of-life situations that may arise. Preparing such a document is also a great way to begin these difficult, but important discussions with our families and loved ones.

Contact an Attorney to Help You Draft Your Living Will

Are you living in Louisiana? Would you like an attorney to help you draft a Living Will? Contact Attorney Smith to help you.

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