A Living Will, on the other hand, is a Directive to Physician under the former California Natural Death Act. This directive is a document which directs that life-sustaining treatment will be withheld or withdrawn if you are terminally ill or permanently unconscious and the administration of life-sustaining procedures would only prolong the dying process or unconscious condition. Individuals often choose this because they wish to avoid the misery of artificially prolonging death. Under the new Health Care Decisions Law, the Living Will provisions are now contained in a document called an Advance Health Care Directive (which was formerly called a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care and which is the subject of another article). The Advance Health Care Directive allows you to do more than the Living Will, which only states your desire not to receive life-sustaining treatment if you are terminally ill or in a coma.
An Advance Health Care Directive allows you to state your wishes about refusing or accepting life-sustaining treatment in any situation in which you are unable to make your own decisions, not just when you are terminally ill. An Advance Health Care Directive allows you to appointed a trusted person (or persons) to make decisions for you when you are incapacitated.
The good news is that you don’t necessarily need a lawyer to prepare an Advance Health Care Directive. Forms which you can fill out are available from doctors, hospitals, and attorneys. We include one in our Estate Planning Package. If you do your own form, make sure the form you use is the most recent version.
Another document you should be aware of is a DNR or Do No Resuscitate Order. A DNR is a formal request to not have cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) administered if your heart stops or if you stop breathing. Your DNR order should be in your chart at a hospital to let the doctor know you do not want to be resuscitated if this is your wish.
These are tough issues to think about, but as usual, prior planning can make a tragedy easier to deal with on many levels.
Contact William or Debra with questions.