Watch Out For That Tree! Living Wills Protect You and Your Loved Ones

Watch Out For That Tree! Living Wills Protect You and Your Loved Ones

If you or a loved one is incapacitated and not able to communicate or make decisions, a Living Will and Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care Decisions can be invaluable to make sure that your wishes and desires are carried out.  While it can be awkward or uncomfortable to talk about and make decisions that may contemplate the end of one’s life, just like retirement, education, and investments, a bit of thought and planning goes a long way.

What is a Living Will?

A Living Will is not technically a “will” at all, but instead a legal document that lets you provide instructions for dealing with life-sustaining medical procedures if you are so incapacitated that you cannot make and communicate your own decisions.  A Living Will instructs a family member or close friend and doctors and medical staff what your choices are about using, continuing, or withdrawing life-sustaining efforts such as tube-fed nutrition and water.

A Living Will takes effect only when and if two doctors certify that you have a terminal and incurable illness or you are permanently unconscious or in a persistent vegetative state.

What Choices Can I Make in a Living Will?

A Living Will allows you to choose from among three options in the event that two doctors certify that you have a terminal and incurable illness or you are permanently unconscious or in a persistent vegetative state.  You can instruct doctors to do everything possible to keep you alive.  You can choose to receive only nutrition (tube feeding) and/or hydration (water).  You can instruct that all life-sustaining efforts, including nutrition and hydration be withdrawn.

No matter what you choose, you will be provided comfort and/or pain medication to alleviate suffering.

What is a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care?

A Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care lets you name a person, usually a family member or close friend, to make all of your health care decisions for you if you are unable to make them for yourself for any reason.  A Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care takes effect when you are not able to communicate with health care providers.

Where Do I Get the Forms?

Under recent legislation, there is now one form for both documents, available at www.state.id.us/ag/living_wills/index.htm.  While an attorney is by not required, the advice of an attorney is often important when signing any legal document.  A good approach is to discuss your choices with your family, trusted friends, your doctor, and an attorney.

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