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When people face the end of their lives, they may find themselves unable to dictate the terms of their medical treatment. This may be because they are either completely incapacitated due to an illness or simply unable to communicate. To avoid this kind of situation, it may be beneficial to draw up a living will.

A living will is a document that outlines when medical treatment should be withheld in the event of a terminal illness or severe disability, and it is something that all Maryland residents may do well to consider. It can help prevent long-term mental and financial anguish to one's family while also allowing someone to die in a dignified manner. However, it can also help resolve disagreements between physicians and the family.

In one case that happened in nearby Pennsylvania, a 59-year-old woman had chronic severe liver disease and a staph infection that appeared to have been caused by a hip prosthesis. The doctors believed that the woman could pull through, but her son objected. Without a living will, the woman essentially hung in limbo. Eventually, she simply became too sick for surgery and subsequently died.

In the woman's case, a living will may have been able to save her life. In many other cases, a living will can help families with deciding to pull the patient off life support. Moreover, people of all ages in Maryland may benefit from having a living will, and it can be written in a way to ensure that medical treatment is only withheld when one's prognosis is grim.

Source: Pittsburgh Tribune Review, "Do yourself a favor: Fill out a living will," Luis Fabregas, March 24, 2012

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