Last column I explained that a Living Will is the document that tells health care providers if you want to be removed from life support. This is an important document because, if your wishes are not clear, loved ones and health care providers will be left to make that terrible decision. This can create serious disputes at a most difficult time.
If you have given the instructions, a Living Will permits a health care provider to remove you from life support if you have a terminal condition in which death is “imminent” and, most importantly, a doctor certifies there is no chance of recovery. If you might recover, your Living Will does not apply. Significantly, if you are removed from life support, pain medication will still be provided.
Accompanying a Living Will is a second document called a “Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care.” This is the document that allows you to appoint someone to make health care decisions for you if you cannot. So if you name someone to make health care decisions for you, how does that work with a Living Will? Does that person decide if you are going to be taken off life support?
I strongly suggest you never leave that final decision to someone else. It is too personal; and it is also unfair to expect someone else to figure out what you would have wanted. Complete a Living Will so that if a final decision needs to be made, it is made by you.
Use the Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care to appoint a trusted individual to make all your other health care decisions if you cannot. There are many situations in which this authority is extremely important. However, the “final” decision, whether you stay on life support if there is no opportunity for recovery, should never be turned over to someone else.
© 2016 Steven J Wright