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How does a living will differ from a health care surrogate?

Are you prepared in case something unexpected happens, causing your to be seriously injured and unable to make decisions for yourself? The future is uncertain, so regardless of your age, it may be beneficial to have both a living will and a health care surrogate to ensure you are as prepared as you can be.

Because both documents address the care you want to receive when you are unable to advocate for yourself, people are sometimes confused about what each document does and why they should have both. If you, like many people, are uncertain about the differences, it may be helpful to learn a little more about what a living will and a health care surrogate can offer.

What can a living will and a health care surrogate do?

A living will is a document that explains the medical treatments you do and do not want to receive in various circumstances. It can also include other medical preferences, regarding things like pain management and organ donation.

A health care surrogate is someone who you appoint to make medical decisions for you if you become unable to make them for yourself. Your health care surrogate should be someone you are comfortable sharing medical information with and who you trust to make the decisions you would prefer, instead of decisions in his or her best interests. For these reasons, many people choose a family member or close friend to be their health care surrogate.

Should you have both?

Although it is best to address many possible end-of-life decisions in your living will, it is unrealistic to account for every possibility. Your health care surrogate cannot act against the wishes you made in your living will, but can make decisions in circumstances that were not addressed in your living will. In this way, a living will and a health care surrogate can complement each other to ensure you receive the care you want in any situation.

A living will and a health care surrogate are not only for the elderly. These are estate planning tools that every adult can benefit from.

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