Health care: Do I need a living will?

Advance directives are an uncomfortable topic. However, the corona crisis makes some people think about the emergency. Who decides on me when I can no longer? The most important questions and answers.


In times of crisis, especially of health, you quickly start to think about things that you would otherwise forget or push away from the ease of everyday life. Covid-19 scares many because the disease can affect even healthy people. The Germans have long been urged to have an advance directive or a power of attorney in the drawer for an emergency. But surveys show that many do not want to deal with it. It is important to think about it once. Perhaps the corona crisis offers food for thought. We have summarized the most important facts.

Where can I get information about what has to be in a living will?

On the websites of the Federal Ministry of Health or the Federal Medical Association, for example, you can find sample and formulation modules. If you want to be very professional, you can also ask a lawyer for advice. This is not legally necessary.

Can I also ask my family doctor for advice?

Absolutely, because if you look at such formulation modules, the layperson will have many questions that only a medical professional can explain to you. The problem is that doctors often don’t take the time to do it. It can also be an option, for example, to call health advice centers or the Independent Patient Advice Center in Germany.

Once the advance directive has been formulated, the topic is ticked off for me.

Having one is a start. However, you should actually check it, again and again, to see whether the information in it still corresponds to your own views, as well as the current life situation and the latest medical findings. Such a crisis or other external circumstances should also give reason to think about its disposition and possibly get advice again.

Everyone is very afraid that bottlenecks will now also occur in German clinics. The intensive care and emergency physicians have now adopted guidelines according to which it is then decided who is treated and how. The patient will also plays a role in this. What does that mean for a living will?

What we are currently experiencing in Germany is, of course, an absolutely exceptional situation. However, if the worst cases occur, doctors will check whether there is a living will and what is in it, for example, whether intensive care treatment with equipment is desired and for how long. For this reason, the current situation is, in fact, an important reason to look at his disposition or to write one.

If I don’t have one, what happens?

Then a decision is made based on a presumed patient will, often with the relatives. This can be a big burden for everyone.

One often reads that a proxy authorization is also required for the living will. Is that correct?

That makes perfect sense. A living will regulate which medical measures you wish or refuse if you can no longer express yourself. A precautionary power of attorney that can only be limited to medical questions enables another person to make health decisions instead of yourself.

Who should I give the power of attorney to?

It is a very personal decision . It doesn’t have to be a relative, it just has to be someone you trust and with whom you can talk about wishes and thoughts again and again so that the selected person can make the right decisions in different situations. One of the most important prerequisites is that you can talk to each other honestly, trustingly and openly – and that someone knows, for example, whether there is an organ donation card, a living will or the like and where to find them if the worst comes to the worst.

What else should I say about my health?

Health is a private matter, you don’t have to tell anyone. However, it makes sense and is important that relatives, for example, know whether you are taking medication on a regular basis, which chronic illnesses you have, which doctor is treating you, and which allergies you are suffering from. This is all information that can be crucial for a doctor in an emergency.

What if I live alone?

Then you can inform friends and relatives about them, tell them where important health documents are. It certainly makes sense that someone has a key to the apartment to get the documents. You can also deposit such documents with your family doctor or have a note in your wallet with the most important information and tips, such as who is a contact person or what diseases you suffer from.

It’s too emotional for me. I don’t want to think about these issues.

That is their right. There is no obligation to do so. You don’t have to do this overnight, you can also deal with it from time to time or talk to people you trust. You just have to be clear, if you don’t prepare anything, you run the risk that your health will not be fulfilled in an emergency.

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