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Natural Awakenings Space & Treasure Coast Florida

What and Whys of a Living Will

Apr 13, 2011 11:53AM

A Living Will is your end-of-life health care mandate. No other legal document exists that will explicitly state your wishes when it comes to the decision of providing life prolonging treatment if you cannot provide such wishes on your own. Without such a document in place, deep emotional and legal problems can occur: You may be kept alive longer than you want — or let die before you want.

Without a Living Will in place, only your health care surrogate can make these end-of-life decisions for you. Because a doctor is not allowed to take any steps that would cause a person to die, the decision must be left to another. The worst case scenario is that there is no decision maker in place, in which case a guardian must be appointed for you. This process takes time and costs thousands of dollars. The determination of who will then make such life and death decisions for you will be left to a judge, who may be forced to appoint a complete stranger to be the final decision maker.

A Living Will may be verbally revoked by the patient, so long as such a revocation is made in the presence of two witnesses. In Florida, as in most states, Living Wills cannot be used to approve mercy killing or euthanasia, or to permit any affirmative or deliberate act or omission to end life other than to permit the natural process of dying. However, the withholding or withdrawal of life-prolonging procedures from a patient does not, for any purpose, constitute a suicide.

A Living Will is not just for the aged. All of the cases involving a Living Will that have gone before the United States Supreme Court have been for women under the age of 40.

David Slonim is an Elder Law attorney practicing in Melbourne. He has specialized his practice to the Florida Probate of Formal Administration and Summary Administration of an estate; Guardianship of an incapacitated person or minor; Trust and Estate Planning utilizing Wills and Trusts; and Advance Directives such as Powers of Attorney, Health Care Surrogates, Living Wills, and Pre-need Guardianship Declarations; and Asset Protection Planning focusing on Medicaid and VA Aid & Attendance Benefits. For more information call 321-7575701, or visit www.slonimlaw.com.