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The ‘living will’: Expectant mom of four tells doctors to save her instead of her unborn baby in the event of an emergency

Doctors in surgery. Picture: Pixabay

Doctors in surgery. Picture: Pixabay

Published May 24, 2023


The ‘’living will’’ trend on TikTok has been gaining momentum as a way for people to inform their loved ones and healthcare providers about their medical wishes in case of an emergency.

However, this trend has become controversial, especially concerning expectant mothers giving birth in hospitals.

A living will is a document that outlines a person's preferences regarding medical care should they become incapacitated and unable to voice their opinions. It can specifically indicate which treatments they want to receive or avoid, as well as who makes decisions on their behalf.

Picture: Freestocks/Unsplash

According to Dr Lanalee Araba Sam, an obstetrician and gynaecologist, having a “living will” is a crucial part of a comprehensive birth plan. It provides information about a patient's preferences for medical treatment in case of an emergency or unforeseen circumstance.

She pointed out, ‘’These conversations should happen ideally during the prenatal visits so that the team taking care of the patient knows her preferences.’’

However, experts caution that “living wills” should not take the place of communication between the patient and their healthcare provider.

There have been cases where living wills have come into use in childbirth.

According to a CNN report, 29-year-old Ashley Martinez, who has four sons and is currently carrying her fifth child, posted a video online imploring doctors to give her priority before the life of her unborn child in the event complications arise when she is in labour.

@cnn Some pregnant women in America are posting “living wills” on TikTok due to restrictive abortion laws in their states. Ashley Martinez lives in Texas, has four sons and is pregnant with a much-wanted daughter. But she’s worried that her life wouldn’t be prioritized if she experienced birth complications. #cnn #news #fyp ♬ original sound - CNN

An umbilical cord prolapse during delivery can be a potentially life-threatening complication for both mother and child.

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists explains that if not treated quickly, this condition can result in the baby not receiving enough oxygen and blood flow.

And for Martinez, who underwent an emergency Cesarean section during her last pregnancy due to the rare but dangerous condition, the experience was nothing short of terrifying.

She revealed that losing her mother to Hodgkin’s Lymphoma at a young age made her fear for her children’s safety, and she couldn’t bear the thought of them going through a similar tragedy.

In the case of pregnant women, having a “living will” is especially important because childbirth can be unpredictable. By communicating their wishes in advance, expectant mothers can help ensure that their healthcare preferences are respected. This can include preferences on pain medication, C-sections, and other delivery method preferences.

@namastedoc What to put in a living will? #livingwill #hospital #doctor #endoflife #important #decisions #mustknow #legal #healthproblem #doit #diy #mustdo #erdoc ♬ Inspirational Epic - Yevhen Lokhmatov

However, some experts are concerned that “living wills” and birth plans can lead to conflict and unrealistic expectations.

Dr Heather Bartos, an obstetrician-gynaecologist and author of the book ‘’Your New Patient Has Autism,’’ explained that "a birth plan should be viewed as a wish list, not as a tool for controlling childbirth“.

Although there are essential considerations to include when creating a “living will”. For instance, pregnant women should discuss their medical preferences with their healthcare provider, as they may be able to provide valuable advice based on medical history. Additionally, it is essential to ensure the document complies with the legal requirements of where you live.

Further, it is essential to note that a “living will” is just one part of a comprehensive birth plan.

A birth plan outlines a person's pregnancy and birthing preferences, while a living will encompass a broader range of medical care decisions.

In a nutshell, the TikTok ‘’living will’’ trend has brought the conversation about medical care decision-making to the forefront, which is essential for expectant mothers.

By taking the time to create a “living will” and birth plan, pregnant women can feel more in control of their healthcare during a critical period and ensure that their medical preferences are respected.