Professor advises living wills to benefit students, parents


While most K-State students probably don’t want to think about what would happen to them if they got seriously injured or sick, it is more important than ever to put legal plans in place just in case.

Many students may be unaware that if they were to end up in a permanently unresponsive state or were unable to make decisions regarding medical treatment, their parents would be unable to make the call about treatment and continued life support.

Once a person is over 18, parents are no longer able to make medical decisions for their child. If a patient does not have a living will that outlines the care that they want to receive, then the choice is left up to physicians or the court system. This can put loved ones through stress and greatly extend the process.

According to the Mayo Clinic website, a living will is a document that “spells out the types of medical treatments and life-sustaining measures you want and don’t want, such as mechanical breathing (respiration and ventilation), tube feeding or resuscitation. In some states, living wills may be called health care declarations or health care directives.”

Charles Reagan, professor of philosophy, recommends that college students make living wills.

“Not having a living will is torment on parents,” Reagan said. “You should be making the decisions about your health, not the courts.”

Reagan teaches moral philosophy, where he discusses examples such as Terri Schiavo, who spent over a decade in the middle of legal battles between the courts, her husband and her parents. She had no living will appointing someone to make her medical decisions when she was unable to do so. Schiavo’s feeding tubes were removed several times following various court rulings before she passed away in 2013 from dehydration and malnutrition.

Reagan encourages students to take responsibility for their medical future and assures students that filling out a living will is “very easy to do.”

When a living will is completed, it is important that people in your life be informed of its existence, said Deb Sellers, associate professor of family studies and human services.

“Once you have completed a living will you may want to talk to your family and friends about your wishes,” Sellers said. “This may help avoid any confusion during what is sure to be a stressful time for those who love and care for you.”

Living wills are not the only option for care under extreme circumstances. Another option is a healthcare proxy, or another person being legally designated to make medical decisions if you can no longer make them yourself. Living wills and healthcare proxies will only go into effect after a
person has been diagnosed with a terminal illness by two different

Brandon Runyan, freshman in computer science, believes having someone legally responsible for your medical care if you can’t be is an important decision.

“I think its a good idea to have someone you trust making calls when it comes to your life,” Runyan said.

Between appointing a healthcare proxy and filling out a living will, Reagan thinks that living wills are the better choice and that everyone should have one. In addition, Reagan believes everyone should have a will to help outline the future of possessions and assets.

“If you don’t have a will, the state will determine who gets your belongings after death,” Reagan said. “They may not end up going to who you wanted them to in that case.”

Living wills are not permanent documents and can be changed or discarded at any time. They can also be eliminated by simply destroying the physical piece of paper. Copies of legal living wills should be given to family or loved ones, as well as a primary physician. Taking responsibility for medical possibilities now can help save time and difficult decisions in the future.

More information on living wills and healthcare proxy, and forms can be found on the Internet, at websites like