Do You Need A Living Will?
If you become incapacitated and unable to make decisions for yourself regarding final medical care, will your family be left to wonder what to do? It happens to millions of Americans every year: Circumstances arise whereby an individual cannot communicate his or her final wishes regarding emergency surgery and continued life support. It is for this reason that a health care proxy is recommended.
A health care proxy — sometimes referred to as an advance health care directive or a living will — gives your doctors and family a specific statement regarding your health care decisions in the event you are unable to communicate those decisions yourself. It also serves to appoint the agent who is responsible for communicating and carrying out your wishes. Remember, the agent you appoint (usually a close family member) is not making the medical decision, you are. But you have removed the doubt and decision from your family’s control.
How Broad Can The Health Care Proxy Be?
A health care proxy can be very broad or very limited. One of the most important provisions would be the decision to terminate life-support treatment or relay a do-not-resuscitate order. Our elder law attorneys recommend the following paragraph:
“If the situation should arise in which there is no reasonable expectation of my recovery to any medically significant degree from what may fairly be described, upon the basis of then current medical knowledge, as an extreme, incapacitating, and irreversible or terminal physical or mental disability, to make whatever decisions and take whatever steps are necessary (including the termination of life support systems) to carry out my express wish that I be allowed to die and not be kept alive by artificial means or heroic measures, subject, however, to the administration of medication or the performance of medical procedures that alleviate suffering and constitute comfort care even though that may shorten my remaining life. The authority under this paragraph extends specifically (without hereby limiting the generality of this paragraph) to the termination of any mechanical life support system or device and the providing or the withholding, as my agent shall determine, of artificial hydration or nutrition or both.”