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What is a Living Will?

What is a Living Will?

January 9, 2018 by Greg Port, J.D., M.B.A.


elderly man discussing document with man

Ohio recognizes two separate documents which deal with emergency medical care. One is the Living Will and the second is the Health Care Power of Attorney. The first is very different from the document commonly known as a last will and testament. It is a document expressing an individual's desires related to medical treatment in the event that they are unable to communicate with medical providers. A last will and testament, on the other hand, is used to leave property to others after death.

The Health Care Power of Attorney differs from the Living Will in that it allows another person to make emergency medical care decisions in the case that the principal person is incapacitated.

What Does a Living Will Cover?

A Living Will is a directive to any medical provider and is effective whether or not family members or a Health Care Power of Attorney designee is notified. It tells the medical provider that you do or do not wish to be resuscitated or kept alive by artificial means. 

You may choose to file one with the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles so that in the instance of an emergency, a medical provider can look it up in the database for direction. Also, your driver’s license can be noted to show that a Living Will is on file.

healthcare-upclose-1322372-300x225.jpgThere is a perception that living wills can be used to refuse life-sustaining treatment and allow a person to die who otherwise could be saved, but this is incorrect. They only take effect when a patient is deemed to be in a permanent vegetative state or suffering from a terminal illness and unable to make or communicate medical decisions. Having one does not mean that a physician would refuse to administer pain medications and other palliative care treatments that would make the patient more comfortable.

Living wills are not relevant to routine medical treatments and conditions that are not considered life-threatening. In most cases, the determination as to whether one is applied is determined by the individual's attending physician in addition to another physician who has reviewed the individual's medical condition. All physicians have strict guidelines as to when a Living Will becomes applicable.

 

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How Does a Living Will Differ From a Health Care Power of Attorney?

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A Health Care Power of Attorney appoints one person to act as a health care decision-maker in the instance of incapacity and will also appoint other individuals as alternates in case the first choice is not available. It is important that the person appointing their designee make sure that the person being appointed is able to carry out their wishes. For example, the designee may have religious or ethical beliefs that make them unable to carry out the directives.

As with the living will, the determination as to whether an individual is able to make his or her own treatment decisions is determined by the attending physician. 

Living wills and Health Care Powers of Attorney have serious implications with regard to religious and philosophical beliefs. It is therefore important to carefully consider all of the factors involved before signing one of these documents.

Ohio Living Wills

In Ohio, your attorney can help you create a living will or you can do it yourself with a form online. To ensure everything is done right, it’s best to seek legal advice

In conjunction with the process, it’s a good idea to also devise a durable power of attorney and a health care proxy. These legal documents name someone you trust to handle financial decisions and medical decisions, respectively,  if you are ever incapacitated. You should pick people who will be able to work together to do what’s best for you. 

Ohio living wills can be changed at any time you feel the need to while of sound mind. You need two people to witness your will, one of whom cannot be related to you. Alternatively, you can have it notarized by a notary public.

If you need to get started on making a living will, please contact us to schedule a free consultation. 

 

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Topics: Wills, Family Law, Health Care

Greg Port, J.D., M.B.A.

Written by Greg Port, J.D., M.B.A.

Port Legal founding attorney, Gregory Port has over 30 years experience. He has provided strategic corporate law representation in Central Ohio to clients since 1990. Gregory Port is a lawyer actively practicing in the areas of probate, estate planning, and real estate. His experience and core values are the cornerstones of Port Legal as a specialized advocate for your interests.