It’s an advance directive (sometimes called a DNR) stating that you don’t want your heart or breathing re-started under certain circumstances. It takes effect only if you can no longer communicate your wishes. But this document is not done by an attorney; it’s a physician’s directive, used primarily for terminally-ill patients.
DNRs are not honored if cardiac arrest occurs during surgery or certain other procedures meant to improve the quality of life, or lead to significant recovery.
You may wish to be kept alive as long as possible, no matter your condition. Or, you may prefer to decline all life support. You may want some types of care – pain management, for instance – but not others. Which is why it’s important to choose an agent who’ll honor your wishes.
Doctors, who’ve taken an oath to do everything in their power to maintain life, are still only human. They may have professional or religious reasons for not wanting to comply with a patient’s wish to deny or discontinue life support. And they may also fear liability issues from distraught family members.
Legally, though, doctors are obligated to honor your advance directive. If for any reason they can’t, they’re required to transfer you to another doctor who will. And, if your doctor refuses, you’re entitled to appeal to the ethics board, or request a court order that the wishes be honored.
An advance directive is especially important when it comes to family members who may not know – or agree with – your wishes. If you talk with your loved ones when you sign the directive, you’ll relieve them of the burden of having to make these decisions themselves. And you’ll eliminate any ambiguity about your wishes.
Some people confuse “living will” and “living trust.” A living trust, however, deals with property – not medical decisions.
Your directive may be included in a durable power of attorney for health care decisions, but it’s generally a separate document.
Legally, an advance directive should be signed, dated, and witnessed. Some states require that it be notarized at the time of signing.
Sound confusing? It’s not… if you have a guide who knows the ropes.
At the Law Offices of Alice Reiter Feld & Associates, we practice Elder Law – and only Elder Law. And, over the past 33 years, we’ve guided thousands of South Florida families through the Elder Care Journey, with estate planning, wills, trusts, power of attorney, long-term care planning, asset protection, and issues with the VA or Medicaid.
We’ll guide you through… from beginning to end. And we’re just a phone call away.
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