Your life, your decision

MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan --
Editor's note: This is part two of a three story series highlighting Air Force Legal Assistance Month.

Imagine you are hospitalized with a coma, and although you are unable to make medical decisions, they still must be made. You need someone to take actions on your behalf.

A living will allows you to state your desires regarding medical treatment while you are still healthy. In a situation where you are incapacitated or have a terminal illness, it tells your medical provider what treatments and life-sustaining measures you wish and do not wish to receive. Without a living will, your provider may be required to artificially prolong your life or perform invasive medical procedures, even if it is not what you or your family wants.

"If you have not expressed your desire to receive or not receive life-sustaining treatment, the decision will fall on your family," said Capt. Juan Godinez, 35th Fighter Wing Judge Advocate chief of legal assistance. "Choosing whether to, as we say, pull the plug or not pull the plug is a very hard decision for a family to make."

In some cases, this decision had families so torn that the result was a legal battle, said Godinez. If you have a living will, it clearly expresses your intent on the treatment you wish to receive, which can relieve stress from your family.

A living will does not become effective unless you are incapacitated; until then an individual can say what treatments they do or do not wish to receive.

"Whether to have a living will or not is a moral decision that you have to make," said Godinez. "An individual should assess their religious, moral and ethical beliefs before they decide if a living will is right for them."

If you decide that a living will is right for you, visit https://aflegalassistance.law.af.mil for a living will form to get you started and other helpful legal information. After completing the form, individuals can contact the Legal Office at 226-4022 to schedule an appointment to start drafting their living will.