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Life (or Death) Without a Living Will

It seems everyone knows a story about someone without a living will, but does it spur you on to make one?  If not, please let me tell you mine.

Too many years ago at too young an age, my mother ended up on life support with no hope of recovery.  At that time, the concept of a living will was gaining momentum but still, few had them.  My mother was like most, she had nothing but a will in place.  All of her seven children were between the ages of twenty one and forty and were asked for our input.  The doctors looked for consensus.  But, every child has a different relationship with that parent, knows that parent differently and sees that parent in a different light.  The situation was excruciating for all and yes, eventually my mother died.

Today, the situation would not be much different if you do not have a living will and a decision has to be made.  In Florida, there is a statute, the Health Care Proxy statute which allows a facility to designate certain people or groups as decision makers about your health care.  That means the state chooses who will make your life and death decisions.  And, that person or group may have to work in the dark as they may not have legal access to all the necessary information with which to work.  If it is a group, like your seven children, the majority rules.  This kind of situation can be a recipe for disaster, or a lawsuit.  The hospitals and doctors do not want to bear the burden of deciding on your future.  If the family cannot agree, the hospital is going to find a way to get a judge to make that decision.

Doesn’t this all sound so invasive on your privacy?  I think so.  But, it can all be avoided.  Advance directives are documents such as a health care surrogate and living will, which you can execute while you are totally in control of your life, for the possibility of the day that you cannot make informed consent or a decision about your care.  While forms of these documents are available, the information they contain may not be adequate.  We encourage people to speak with a qualified elder law attorney to be sure all of your questions and concerns are fully addressed.  After all, it is your life we’re talking about.

April D. Hill, Esq.

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