According to the Tennessee Department of Health, in 2004, Tennessee law was revised where it recognized more than one written advance directive for health care decision making, which includes: the Living Will or Advance Care Plan and the Medical Power of Attorney or Appointment of Health Care Agent.
What is a Living Will and what purposes does it serve? A Living Will specifically addresses what types of care and treatment you wish to receive if you have a terminal illness or condition and are unconscious and are too sick to communicate on your own behalf. The Living Will is only effective when you are too sick or too injured to speak for yourself and attending physicians believe that you are going to die unless you receive aggressive treatment or are put on some form of life support.
You are never too young to sign a Living Will since anyone can be injured in a serious accident or fall ill with a life-threatening medical condition. It's best to sign a Living Will sooner than later, and you should talk with your doctor, your spouse, your family and friends about your wishes before you have a life-threatening injury or illness.
Once you draft a Living Will with your attorney, you should give copies of the document to family members, your doctors, and anyone else that you want to make your wishes known to. It's also a good idea to keep a copy with your important papers and to keep a copy in your lockbox. You can keep a note in your wallet which explains where your Living Will is kept.
With the Tennessee Living Will, otherwise referred to as the "Advance Care Plan," you are giving advance instructions on how you want to be treated by your doctors and other health care providers when you can no longer make decisions for yourself. In the Living Will, if your quality of life becomes unacceptable and your condition is irreversible (it will not improve), then you are directing medically appropriate treatment. By marking "no" on the form, you are indicating what medical treatment you do not want and this can include any one or more of the following:
- CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation)
- Life support or other artificial support such as a breathing machine, IV fluids, medications, and other equipment that helps the lungs, heart, kidneys etc. to work
- Surgery, blood transfusions, antibiotics that address new conditions but don't help the main illness
- Feeding tubs and IV fluids to deliver food and water to the patient's stomach via the vein (including artificially delivered nutrition)
When you are healthy and of sound mind, you have the ability to make your own health care decisions; however, if you become terminally ill or permanently unconscious, you have no way of expressing what types of life-sustaining treatment you wish to receive, and this difficult decision falls on your family members. With a Living Will, you are able to make these decisions when you are still healthy and you can spare your loved ones the pain of making these choices for you, especially when they don't know what types of treatment you would have wanted.