ALTOONA, BLAIR COUNTY - If you were critically ill and had no chance of regaining consciousness, how far would you want doctors to go to keep you alive?
A study shows fewer than 1 in 3 Americans has a living will, a document that tells your doctor, in advance, what medical treatments you want to receive in the event that you can't communicate.
On Wednesday, National Health Care Decision Day, UPMC Altoona offered forms for living wills and durable power of attorney for Pennsylvania residents.
The questions in the living will about your wishes for future care are pretty specific. They ask whether you want heart resuscitation, kidney dialysis, surgery or invasive tests, and blood or blood products.
You may not want to make those decisions now, but if you don't, the real burden later is on your family.
UPMC Altoona Care Coordinator Cindy Rematt advises patients how to fill out the documents. She says, "I think that it gives a sense of relief to the familiy that the patients, on their own, had expressed their wishes."
If you don't sign off on particular treatments, you could end up having them. The living will allows you to designate another person to make medical decisions for you, but you can also appoint someone to make decisions about your care under a durable power of attorney.
Download living will and power of attorney forms for Pennsylvania.
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