Death is never an easy subject to tackle. Some ignore the subject matter completely until it is too late to work pro-actively, leaving a spouse or family to react to a mess. Often this results in the need to retain lawyers and experts in order to determine the final wishes of the incapacitated person in question.
Case-in-point: You may recall the tragic case of Terri Schiavo in Florida who fell, hit her head and was left in a (near) vegetative state for more than a dozen years until her husband convinced a local court that her last wish was not to be kept alive artificially. The battle of attorneys, politicians and the media assault that ensued for weeks after her feeding tube was removed until she passed away was nothing short of an explosive slow motion train wreck. Everyone came away from this debacle worse for the wear.
Shortly after this unfortunate woman died, lawyers all over the country – myself included – received calls from people far and wide inquiring what form or document was needed to avoid this situation for themselves.
Answer: A Living Will. Simply put, a Living Will is a document that advises your family, friends and medical professionals what your end-of-life wishes happen to be. It is a simple document that exists in many different forms in the State of Florida. It is also only one of a number of available health care directives that protect you and your family from end of life problems.
A few things about a Living Will:
- So long as someone is conscious and able to make end-of-life decisions, the Living Will is available, but not relied upon. You will always be the one calling the shots so long as you are able to, and legally capacitated;
- A Living Will is utilized when someone is unable to make medical decisions and is in a terminal state, such as cancer, cardiac issues, advanced neuromuscular diseases, etc. They may be in a coma, or sedated for pain management and unable to verbalize their wishes or simply unable to speak; OR,
- A Living Will is heavily relied upon when some isn’t necessarily terminal but is in a persistent vegetative state. They may remain in a vegetative state for many years to come until death comes naturally, unless they have signed a Living Will in advance which states that this is not their wish.
A Living Will typically advises your family and your attorney that if your physical health has reach the end of its qualitative state, you don’t want any further medical measures taken to keep you alive. It allows the health care facility to remove all “heroic” measures, including: surgeries, chemotherapies, dialysis, transfusions, mechanical resuscitation and even nutrition and hydration.
If you have an old Living Will it might not spell out the removal of nutrition and hydration as that used to be categorized as assisted suicide, but no longer. Lawyers successfully argued a case before the Florida Supreme Court which overturned that about a dozen years ago.
So, our gift to you is the Living Will form we use in our practice. It is by no means the only form out there. We encourage you to see an attorney for further information since, as referenced earlier, it is only one tool in the arsenal of health care directives. Our form is only to be used for residents of Florida and no representations can be made for any other state. If it of benefit to you and your family please feel free to use it.
A little later today I will attach a pdf to my Facebook page of a Living Will valid in Florida. I’ve never charged clients for health care directives believing it’s the right thing to do. If you’d like a free download of a Living Will, go “like” and it shall be done!
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