Sadie Says … Frequently asked questions about older adult issues

Q. “What is a living will?”

A. There are two main types of advance directives — the “Living Will” and the “Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care.”

A Living Will is the oldest type of health care advance directive. It is a signed, witnessed (or notarized) document called a “declaration” (directive).

A Living Will allows you to document your wishes concerning medical treatments at the end of life. Most declarations instruct an attending physician to withhold or withdraw medical interventions from its signer if he/she is in a terminal condition and is unable to make decisions about medical treatment.

Before your Living Will can guide medical decision-making two physicians must certify:

• You are unable to make medical decisions,

• You are in the medical condition specified in the state’s Living Will law (such as “terminal illness” or “permanent unconsciousness”).

Other requirements also may apply, depending upon the state.

Since an attending physician who may be unfamiliar with the signer’s wishes and values has the power and authority to carry out the signer’s directive, certain terms contained in the document may be interpreted by the physician in a manner that was not intended by the signer.

Family members and others who are familiar with the signer’s values and wishes have no legal standing to interpret the meaning of the directive.

You should review your Living Will periodically to ensure that it still reflects your wishes. If you change anything in your Living Will, you should complete a whole new document.

Information about Living Wills was referenced from these webpages: http://www.patientsrightscouncil.org/site/advance-directives-definitions/ and http://www.caringinfo.org/i4a/pages/index.cfm?pageid=3285

Sadie Says is brought to you by the Lycoming County Health Improvement Coalition

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