Livings Wills in Sarasota
Of all the documents included in an estate plan, perhaps none is as important as your living will. Unless you are a judge, this is probably the only life and death document you will ever sign. Despite its importance, very few people understand how it actually works. This is understandable, as it is not the most pleasant of topics. However, failure to face this issue could result in your losing the ability to make these decisions for yourself when they are most important.
Life Prolonging Procedures
A living will is an advance medical directive in which you indicate your desire to provide, withdraw or withhold life prolonging procedures under certain circumstances. In the State of Florida, life prolonging procedures may be withdrawn or withheld in the event of a terminal condition, an end-stage condition, or a persistent vegetative state.
- Terminal condition means there is no medical probability of recovery and, without treatment, can be expected to cause death.
- End stage condition means an irreversible condition resulting in progressively severe and permanent deterioration in which treatment would be ineffective.
- Persistent vegetative state means a permanent and irreversible condition of unconsciousness with the absence of voluntary action or cognitive behavior and an inability to communicate or otherwise interact.
Only in the event of one of these conditions will a living will go into effect.
Parts of a Living Will
A living will is made up of two separate parts. The first part designates when the living will is to go into effect. It could designate one or all of the patient conditions stated above as the triggering event. Once one of the designated conditions is determined to exist, the second part of the living will goes into effect. The second part indicates what treatments are to be administered or withheld. A common provision is that treatment to alleviate pain and suffering should never be withheld. If you share this sentiment, make sure your living will contains this provision.
Determining the Patient’s Condition
Determining the patient’s condition is a medical decision; however, for the exercise of a living will, there are legal requirements. In determining the patient’s condition, the patient’s attending or treating physician and at least one other consulting physician must separately examine the patient. The findings of each examination must be documented in the patient’s medical record and signed by each physician before life-prolonging procedures may be withheld or withdrawn.
Procedure for Disagreement
An attending physician’s decision to withdraw or withhold life-prolonging procedures may be disputed. Once disputed, the physician is required continue to provide medical treatment. A judicial review of the disputed decision must be sought within seven days, or the attending physician may withdraw or withhold life-prolonging procedures in accordance with the living will.
Life prolonging procedures may be withheld whether there is a living will or not. Having a living will ensures that these determinations are made based on your express wishes and not based on statutes and the opinions of others. Failure to state your wishes could also result in your loved ones being forced to make painful decisions without fully understanding your wishes. If these issues matter to you, you should ensure you have a living will that fully represents your wishes and desires.
If you have any questions or would like additional information regarding this article please write us at Firm@Scovills.com or call us at 941-365-2253.