The Living Wills assume that, of course, if you are impaired, you will not want to live. This post, on Free Republic, explains that very issue, and why a Living will may be a bad choice for you.
Most people, including the writers of the Webster’s Dictionary, think of “terminal” as “in the final stages of a fatal disease,” that is to mean, a person whose death cannot be prevented by medical treatment. But in many states, you are considered to be in a terminal condition even if your life could be saved by medical treatment, so long as you have a permanent disability of some kind. One widely used “Living Will Declaration” states “If I should be in an incurable or irreversible mental or physical condition with no reasonable expectation of recovery, I direct my attending physician to withhold or withdraw treatment that merely prolongs my dying.” It sounds good, until you realize that should you have a limp that cannot be corrected, for example, you have an irreversible physical condition. If you have signed a Living Will and become unable to speak for yourself, you may be deprived of medical treatment.
How impaired do you have to be? Well, think about it. If you are somewhat hearing-impaired, as many elderly are, will the doctors decide that some confusion in understanding their conversation indicates senility? That's what happened numerous times to my very hard-of-hearing father, when he went into the hospital for fine-tuning on his diabetes regimen. The family finally learned to stop by and talk to the staff on all 3 shifts, and make sure that they understood that he would generally smile and nod when he couldn't hear them. Too often, they assumed he was dotty.
It can't be that unusual to have staff assume senility in the hearing-impaired. And, since all-too-many in our society fear senility, might they not work as hard to keep those who might be "losing it" alive?
How about immobility? My grandfather had several strokes, after which, with the help of family, he was able to rehabilitate himself. He had to work hard to recover memories and other cognitive abilities, in addition to physical control, but he was feisty and did it. My mother was wheelchair-bound with Rheumatoid Arthritis for over 15 years. But I never saw anyone take more pleasure in life. How would your medical team evaluate you?
A better choice might be to give durable power of attorney to someone who you believe will respect your wishes, in the event you are unable to speak for yourself.
what is a person to do if he or she does not want medical treatment to prolong one’s last hours, but also doesn’t want to be starved or allowed to die just because of a disability? First, get rid of your Living Will, if you have one. Then, sign a “Will to Live” which can be obtained from the National Right to Life Committee (202-626-8828) or downloaded from its Web site (www.nrlc.org). They will help you get, and sign, a Will to Live that is legal for your state. The Will to Live will protect you from being denied life-saving medical treatment (even food and water) while allowing you to reject treatment that would just prolong your life briefly if you are about to die.
A last warning: after signing the Will to Live, be VERY careful NOT to sign without reading forms given you in the hospital. It's very common for them to slip in forms to batch-sign, and the last form signed is the one that is enforced. You could accidentally void your carefully chosen selections without realizing it.