HIV: PRACTICAL MATTERS-PUTTING YOUR AFFAIRS IN ORDER: LIVING WILLS

A living will is a legal document outlining your decisions about treatment to sustain your life should you be unconscious or incompetent. The living will is somewhat different from the durable power of attorney for health care: the person with your durable power of attorney for health care, when faced with the decision of whether to prolong your life, will usually decide to prolong life. The living will provides that person with your specific instructions for making this decision. The person with your durable power of attorney for health care can also make decisions that may not have been foreseen in your living will.
Living wills, unlike regular wills, apply only to medical treatments. The actual form and scope of a living will is established by state laws. In general, living wills specify which types of treatment you wish to have or wish not to have. Living wills also specify the physical and mental states in which you do or do not want these treatments. These treatments include transfusions, support on a respirator, operations, and resuscitation. Some states have no provision for living wills. Other states that do provide for living wills do not allow any restrictions on food and water. In any case, a living will applies only after the person becomes incompetent and has a terminal condition.
A living will might be written as follows:
In the event that I have an incurable disease that is certified to be a terminal condition by two physicians who have personally examined me—including one who shall be my attending physician—and these physicians have determined that my death is imminent and will occur whether or not life-sustaining procedures are used; and where application of such procedures would serve only to artificially prolong the dying process, I direct that these procedures be withheld or withdrawn, and that I be permitted to die naturally with only the administration of medication, food, and water, and any additional procedure necessary to give comfort and alleviate pain. In the absence of my ability to give directions regarding the use of such
life-sustaining procedures, it is my intention that this declaration shall be honored by my family and physicians as the final expression of my right to control my medical care and treatment.
To make a living will, obtain a sample document from your lawyer, from a hospital legal office, or from a social worker. The content of the living will may be discussed with your physician to assure the use of proper terms and to include likely decisions. The living will must be dated and signed by you and by two witnesses. You must be at least eighteen years old and competent. The witnesses must be at least eighteen years old, must not be related to you, must not be financially responsible for your care, and may not be your health care provider or connected with the facility providing your care. You or your representative should give your physician a copy of the living will. You may revoke the will at any time, preferably by a written statement, but also by destroying the living will and notifying any persons—including the physician—who retain copies.
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HIV: PRACTICAL MATTERS-PUTTING YOUR AFFAIRS IN ORDER: LIVING WILLSA living will is a legal document outlining your decisions about treatment to sustain your life should you be unconscious or incompetent. The living will is somewhat different from the durable power of attorney for health care: the person with your durable power of attorney for health care, when faced with the decision of whether to prolong your life, will usually decide to prolong life. The living will provides that person with your specific instructions for making this decision. The person with your durable power of attorney for health care can also make decisions that may not have been foreseen in your living will.     Living wills, unlike regular wills, apply only to medical treatments. The actual form and scope of a living will is established by state laws. In general, living wills specify which types of treatment you wish to have or wish not to have. Living wills also specify the physical and mental states in which you do or do not want these treatments. These treatments include transfusions, support on a respirator, operations, and resuscitation. Some states have no provision for living wills. Other states that do provide for living wills do not allow any restrictions on food and water. In any case, a living will applies only after the person becomes incompetent and has a terminal condition.     A living will might be written as follows:     In the event that I have an incurable disease that is certified to be a terminal condition by two physicians who have personally examined me—including one who shall be my attending physician—and these physicians have determined that my death is imminent and will occur whether or not life-sustaining procedures are used; and where application of such procedures would serve only to artificially prolong the dying process, I direct that these procedures be withheld or withdrawn, and that I be permitted to die naturally with only the administration of medication, food, and water, and any additional procedure necessary to give comfort and alleviate pain. In the absence of my ability to give directions regarding the use of such life-sustaining procedures, it is my intention that this declaration shall be honored by my family and physicians as the final expression of my right to control my medical care and treatment.     To make a living will, obtain a sample document from your lawyer, from a hospital legal office, or from a social worker. The content of the living will may be discussed with your physician to assure the use of proper terms and to include likely decisions. The living will must be dated and signed by you and by two witnesses. You must be at least eighteen years old and competent. The witnesses must be at least eighteen years old, must not be related to you, must not be financially responsible for your care, and may not be your health care provider or connected with the facility providing your care. You or your representative should give your physician a copy of the living will. You may revoke the will at any time, preferably by a written statement, but also by destroying the living will and notifying any persons—including the physician—who retain copies.*218\191\2*

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