A living will is a document that is meant to direct healthcare providers on how to withhold life-sustaining treatment in a hopeless circumstance. Usually, this document includes specifications such as the requirement that two or more doctors must agree that the person’s death is imminent or that the person will never gain full capacity to make informed decisions.
A living will also includes a list of people whom health care providers must contact prior to the removal of life support. These people will have a chance to pay their last respects and can get a court order to continue the life-sustaining treatment within 48 hours. The court will only grant this order that overrides a living will if someone presents clear and convincing evidence that the person changed his or her desires.
A living will is important to have in place to avoid situations like the famous Terri Schiavo case. Schiavo did not have a living will, so from 1998 through 2005, a legal battle involving Schiavo’s husband and her parents took place. If a living will had been in place, argument about “what she would have wanted” would have been purposeless, as Schiavo could have made those wants clear ahead of time.
After the publicity of the Terri Schiavo case, many people were forced to reevaluate whether they would want to prolong their lives if they were seriously ill and had no chance of recovering. The only way to ensure that your wishes are carried out in the event of an unrecoverable or mentally incapacitating condition is to create a living will.
Each state has slight variations on the laws in this area, but a living will is relatively easy and inexpensive to create. Contact an attorney at Lovett & House law office for guidance in writing your living will.