A last will and testament communicates your wishes to the probate court so your assets are distributed as you direct. A living will is so named because it is used when you are still alive to communicate your end-stage wishes to the medical team caring for you when you are terminal.
Living wills became an estate planning tool when advances in medicine gave physicians the ability to keep patients in a vegetative state alive longer. Many people questioned the morality of keeping a non-responsive person alive if they wished to die in peace, so the physician’s directive became a legal way to alert your medical team to your end-stage wishes. To ensure your wishes are honored, work with an experienced wills lawyer to construct your living will in St. Charles County.
Living Wills Are Not Medical Powers of Attorney
Living wills and medical powers of attorney are both written directives, but they serve different purposes. A living will discusses how medical personnel should proceed, either administering or withholding treatment, when a patient is terminal and unresponsive.
A medical power of attorney names an agent who will make medical decisions for an unresponsive patient. If a patient has both documents, the agent named in the medical power of attorney must abide by the living will.
The Patient Self-Determination Act of 1991 requires hospitals, nursing homes, and home healthcare agencies to tell their patients about living wills. Talk to a St. Charles County lawyer to discuss how living wills work in further detail.
Creating a Living Will
Anyone at least 18 years old can create a living will. Living wills can be revoked by destroying or replacing them with an updated version. Personal physicians and family members should receive copies. Requirements for a living will include:
- The maker must sign a written copy
- The maker must be mentally competent
- Two witnesses must observe the maker’s signature and sign the living will
- Once the maker is in a coma, vegetative state, or incapacitated and close to death, the living will is effective
- If the living will is a dying declaration, it must be recited to the patient’s physician with two witnesses, who may be part of the medical care team
The directives in a living will are personal and unique to the party creating it. Living wills can also outline cultural and religious preferences. For instance, some religions forbid blood transfusions and certain medications. A living wills attorney in St. Charles County could ensure your living will meets legal requirements.
What Actions Does a Living Will Address?
Makers of living wills can be as specific as necessary to explain what life support actions are desired. Some patients wish to be placed on respirators, feeding tubes, and ventilators. Others do not want any extraordinary efforts. Makers can choose whether emergency responders should perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), which can break a compromised patient’s ribs. Patients can accept or refuse surgery, medications, dialysis, or blood transfusions. They can stop chemotherapy or any other treatments they were receiving but that are no longer working.
Pain Management Keeps Terminal Patients Comfortable
Patients will be given pain medication, such as morphine, to keep them comfortable unless they opt out in their living wills. They must opt out in writing if they do not want to receive it, although most patients do wish for the pain in their final days to be controlled.
A St. Charles County legal professional listens to clients to determine what should be included in a living will.
Speak to a St. Charles County Attorney About Living Wills
A living will is a legal document that prevents patients from being kept alive by modern medicine with no quality of life. Patients can predetermine how their last days will be handled by their medical team. You should not leave these crucial instructions to a family member, because chances are they will be so distraught, they will tell your physician to do everything to keep you alive.
A living will only becomes effective when you are close to death and cannot make decisions, but you can create one now and plan for the future. Our lawyers will listen to what is important to you and memorialize those wishes in a living will. Contact our firm to schedule your consultation and ask any questions you have about the creation and enforcement of living wills in St. Charles County.