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Living Wills: What Are They? How Do State and Federal Guidelines Affect Them?

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Living Wills: What are they? How do state and federal guidelines affect them?

A terminal illness or accident has left your body unable to survive on its own. You are lying in a hospital bed, unconscious and unable to move, your life being extended by a respiratory machine and a heart monitor. Would you want to go this way? Would you want to have family watching this nonexistence of life? Of course you can't answer that because you are unconscious but if you could answer I am sure the answer would be "no". These are the scenarios where living wills come in handy. Without them it is up to doctors to decide your fate. This is a very bleak description of something that does happen every day in hospitals. In no way can everyone be prepared for events that can happen in life but when a terminal diagnoses is given we can prepare for the outcome of that.

"A living will is not really a will at all, since it has force while you are still alive and does not dispose of property." (ABA, 2004, p. 60) Let's start off by defining what a living will actually is. A legal will is a legal document that a person uses to make known his or her wishes when it comes to life prolonging medical treatments. In a living will several different kinds of life sustaining procedures can be refused like cardiac resuscitation, mechanical resuscitation, blood transfusions, surgery, kidney dialysis, and even antibiotics. Having a living will lets doctors and hospitals know whether to use life support or not in the event you are unable to speak for yourself. It is used when a terminal illness or accident occurs and you cannot be brought back to a conscious state. A living will does become null and void after the passing of the author.

There is no single right way to write a living will and there are many books and websites containing advice, how to information and even the documents needed. "It is recommended that you include a lawyer in the drafting of a living will to ensure that all legal aspects are covered." (Haman, 2006, pg. 71) It is also recommended to choose someone to be your medical power of attorney just in case your living will cannot be found at the time it is needed. When writing a living will there is one main thing to remember no matter who writes it is not valid unless you sign it. If you are unable to sign it someone else can sign it with 2 witnesses. A living will must be clear in meaning and describe specific circumstances so as not to be questioned when the time comes to use it. Although living wills are accepted in all of the 50 states some states may have their own stipulations on how the will should be written. Some states require it to be notarized some do not. For example under Ohio law, a living will declaration is applicable only to individuals in a terminal condition or a permanently unconscious state and a physician must certify this. "In Ohio you

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