A Living Will allows you to make decisions regarding life support and artificial nutrition and hydration ahead of time while you are legally competent. It also removes the difficult decisions from loved ones. If desired, these orders will take effect if you are in a “persistent vegetative state” or if you are terminal and you do not want artificial nutrition, hydration or life support administered. These directives will be written out in a Living Will, which the doctors must follow.
As long as the Living Will was drafted, signed and notarized while the patient was conscious and of sound mind, the physician must follow the wishes of a Living Will. This not only allows you to make these important decisions beforehand, but it also takes away the burden of requiring loved ones to make these difficult choices. Additionally, it makes sure that the decisions you and your partner agree upon are not overruled by family members.
Many prospective clients have said, “Well, my partner knows what I want to have done … we don’t need a Living Will.” We respond by saying, “Are you really sure that your doctor will turn to your partner when a parent is standing there? Do you really expect your family to obey your partner when he or she tells them what to do?
What does a Living Will do?
A Living Will allows you to make decisions regarding life support, artificial nutrition and hydration ahead of time while you are legally competent. If desired, these orders will take effect if you are in a persistent vegetative state or if you are terminal and you do not want artificial nutrition, hydration or life support administered. These directives will be written out in a Living Will, which the doctors must follow.
For example, an individual residing in North Carolina decides that she wishes to withhold life support, artificial nutrition, and hydration if she is in a persistent vegetative state, terminal or incurable. After signing the Living Will in front of a notary and two witnesses, she makes multiple copies and leaves them with her partner, her doctor, her human resources manager, friends and family members that are likely to enact her wishes; and one copy in her briefcase and in her car. In North Carolina, if the situation arises and she is in a persistent vegetative state, then any doctor receiving a copy of her duly executed Living Will must obey the patient’s directives.
What does a Living Will not do?
A Living Will does not waive your right to request life support, artificial nutrition or hydration if you are able to. Nor does it mean that you cannot revoke the Living Will or enact another one later. Remember, a Living Will only handles these critical decisions if you cannot do it yourself.
A Living Will also does not appoint someone else to make these decisions for you or appoint someone to make other decisions regarding your health if you are simply unable to communicate your wishes. The appointments of health care agents are handled in a Health Care Power of Attorney.
Lastly (at least for this discussion), your Living Will does not relieve you of your liability for your medical bills. Regardless of the treatment you receive under a Living Will, you (and/or your health insurance company under the terms of their contract with you) are still primarily responsible for the payment of medical bills. After all, in creating a Living Will, you are making decisions for yourself regarding your own medical treatment as if you were still capable of communicating them. Just because the decision is made beforehand, does not mean that someone else is required to pay the health care fees.
If you have any additional questions or would like for our firm to assist you with a Living Will for a Domestic Partnership and other estate planning needs, then please fill out the form to the far right or contact our office at (919) 844-7993.