Living Wills

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Living Wills, sometimes called Advanced Directives, are legal documents accepted in all 50 states. They clearly define a person's wish to decline life-support or medical treatment in certain circumstances, usually when death is imminent. Generally, a living will takes effect when a person becomes terminally ill, permanently unconscious or conscious with irreversible brain damage.

A living will also allows a person to state with particularity the forms of treatment are wanted and not wanted. For example, if a one does not want artificial life support, then sign the living will stating that desire. It is also important to discuss your beliefs and wishes with you family, spouse and other people whose opinions you respect, such as clergy, physicians, attorney or an accountant.

Living wills are recognized in every state, but each state has different requirements. If someone is interested in making a living will, contact an expert in the state that you live in, such as a hospital, local agency on aging or local bar association. To help ensure that the living will be honored, give copies to family members, physicians, lawyer and other involved in caring for the person's welfare.

Federal law now requires most health care facilities (hospitals, nursing homes, HMOs and home health agencies) to ask patients if they have a living will or would like to complete one.
Can Medical Care Legally Be Stopped If There Is NO Living Will? When there is no written document, a spouse or close family member may still request that treatment be withheld if the patient cannot do so, but the request could be denied. The way states and health care providers handle such cases varies widely. Typically, a doctor or hospital representative will meet with a person's family to discuss what that person's wishes were. In some cases a health care facility may want to withhold or provide life support against a family's wishes. In some cases a formal...
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