Living will important at all ages

By Gus Bode

Accidents happen, and it is important to be prepared.

Marshall Kapp, professor in the School of Law, said students should think about medical situations that might arise and determine what they would want done if they were in a vegetative state. They can then create a living will so their wishes will be carried out, even when they can’t speak.

In fact, Kapp said young people should think through this issue because they often have a false sense of security. Anyone can be injured at any time, so it is important to plan ahead and consider various medical situations and what an individual would want done if incapacitated.

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“Denial is especially strong in young people,” he said.

Jim Podesva, a senior from East Alton studying history, said he doesn’t have a living will and hadn’t really thought about it. However, he said he might look into doing so.

“Now that I’ve thought about it, it might be something worth investigating,” he said.

Kapp said students should speak with family members and anyone else involved in medical treatment decision making before creating a living will. A living will form should be completed to prove the conversations took place. These forms can be found at hospitals and other local health facilities.

“You don’t need to go to an attorney specifically to have it done for you,” Kapp said.

Each state has unique forms, Kapp said. Depending on the time a person spends in another state, he or she might want to fill out multiple forms due to different state practices.

Creating a living will isn’t the only way to plan ahead.

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John Erbes, associate clinical professor in the School of Law, said it is important to look into a healthcare power of attorney. An Illinois living will only covers decisions regarding feeding tubes, but a healthcare power of attorney deals with various medical situations. It also allows an individual to name a family member or friend as a personal agent to determine medical treatment for the incapacitated individual.

“It would cover any type of medical treatment basically,” Erbes said.

Chrystal Nause, a graduate from Chevanse studying anthropology, recalled one story of a person she knew who was incapacitated and on life support for about a month before the family decided to pull the plug. Nause said it takes an emotional and financial toll on a family because it extends the death.

She said she doesn’t have a will, but it’s a good thing to get done. She also has trust in her family to make a decision for her.

“I think my mom would know what to do,” she said.

Illinois created a statute called the Illinois Health Care Surrogate Act that sets up a list of people, named by a physician, that can stand in and make decisions for an incapacitated person, Erbes said. But, not all states have this. He said it is important to seriously consider these issues.

“I think any adult should consider having at least a medical advanced directive,” Erbes said.

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