Living wills allow you to state whether you want your life prolonged in the event that you are suffering from a terminal illness, or are in a permanent state of unconsciousness. Living wills allow you indicate whether you want certain treatments withheld or withdrawn if their function is only to prolong the dying process or to keep you ‘alive’ where there is no realistic hope of recovery.
For example, if you suffer serious brain damage in an accident, or suffer an incapacitating stroke, you may be permanently unconscious and unable to communicate your wishes to your doctor. In such cases, living wills let your doctor know the kinds of medical procedures and treatments you are (a) willing to accept and (b) not willing to accept.
In understanding how living wills work in practice, it’s important that you realize that living wills only come into effect when you are:
(i) suffering from a terminal condition, a persistent comatose condition or in a permanent vegetative state;
(ii) there is no real prospect of recovery; and
(iii) unable to make and communicate your own healthcare decisions.
It is only at this point will the person nominated under your living will have any ability to enforce or revoke any of the instructions that you have set out in your living will. However, before this person can lawfully act, the law in the majority of states and indeed the terms of most living wills require that one or in some cases two doctors must first personally examine you and agree that you satisfy the conditions referred to above and that the application of medical procedures would only prolong the dying process. If the doctor or doctors agree that this is the case, then the medical procedures may be withdrawn or applied, depending on the choices expressed in your living will.
How Can EstateBee Help You?
For more information on living wills, read some of the other living will articles on our website.
Alternatively, if you would like to learn more about living wills, and healthcare powers of attorney, or even make your own, check out our Healthcare Power of Attorney & Living Will Kit. This legal kit contains all the information and ready-to-use lawyer prepared legal forms and documents necessary to create a combined Healthcare Power of Attorney and Living Will. It also contains all the forms necessary to revoke that document.
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