A Living Will is a legal document which informs family and doctors of your wishes around the type of medical care you’d like to receive in the event that you are in coma or unable to communicate your desires not to be kept on life support.
This could follow a medical state (terminal illness, injury or permanent unconsciousness) from which you will not recover and are thus no longer able to make your own medical decisions.
It is a declaration made while you are of sound mind and over the age of medical consent which will remain valid even if the declarant later on becomes ‘non compos mentis’ – in one’s right mind. It is not a will in the testamentary sense of the word, as one’s Last Will and Testament (instructing how your worldly assets are to be distributed) becomes effective on death whereas the Living Will can be effective while you are “alive”.
Alongside this, you may wish to be an organ/tissue donor with the intent of saving some lives either at the time of being kept alive artificially as mentioned above or upon death. South Africans must register with the Organ Donation Foundation for the purpose of this wish.
It is common practice for people to include these instructions in their Last Will and Testament, however, the Will is often only read after the funeral or burial service has taken place.
Discuss this matter with your family, so that they are aware of your Living Will if such an unfortunate event may occur, and that your wishes may be carried out in accordance.