A lot of my clients will joke around and refer to it as the “pull the plug” document. A Living Will is actually your wishes, in writing, about what you want to have happen at the end of life. It is activated when the doctors say that there is nothing else that they can really do. There’s no coming back, but they can keep the body going on the machines and do artificial food and hydration. It’s at this point that Living Will tells the doctors whether or not you want these measures taken.
A Living Will is used only if you get to that point where a life-and-death decision must be made and whether or not to withhold life-sustaining treatment. One exception, though, is if you have a Living Will and the EMTs show up, they have to revive you. More explanation on why this is will be discussed at another time.
What it Isn’t.
The one thing a Living Will doesn’t do, at least in the State of North Carolina, is appoint someone to make life and death medical decisions for you. The Living Will contains your wishes in writing about what you want done – not kicking them off to someone else. Other states handle these decisions by naming someone, but NOT North Carolina.
It’s also important to realize that a Living Will is not a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate document). These two documents are often confused. Only a doctor can issue a DNR. Also, being a healthy 45-year-old with a DNR order is not a good idea, because at that age, if you have a heart attack, you are more likely to survive. If, however, you have a DNR, all medical professionals will be under legal orders to let you go.
Having a Living Will is not a substitute for having a Health Care Power of Attorney. There is a whole area of healthcare decisions that often need to be made before someone is faced with end-of-life decisions. If, for example, you are unconscious from a car accident. If you don’t have a Health Care Power of Attorney – but only have a Living Will − the medical professionals will have to turn to the next of kin, who may be the last people who you want making those kind of decisions for you.
There’s no point in having one, if no one knows about it.
If you do have both a Health Care Power of Attorney and a Living Will, it is imperative that your Healthcare Power of Attorney Agent know that you have a living Will and where it is located.
If you would like more information on Living Wills or other Estate Planning needs, please call our office at: (919) 844-7993. We have friendly staff that is here to help you.