Advanced Directives

Though many of us would prefer to avoid it, recent events have increased our awareness of the importance of Advanced Directives, also known as Living Wills.

An Advanced Directive is an expression of your wishes regarding your health care in the instance of incapacity and/or end-of-life decisions. If you don’t want to be kept alive artificially, should you be terminally ill or unconscious with no chance of recovery (as decided by two doctors), you should document your wishes in Advanced Directives, otherwise known as a Living Will. For a doctor to withhold or withdraw artificial life sustaining treatment, the law says that there has to be clear and convincing evidence that those are the patients’ wishes. The best way to accomplish this of course, is to put your wishes by having a detailed and signed Advanced Directive.

It is important for everyone to realize that an advanced directive/living will can be tailored to suit their wishes. For example, some may not want their lives prolonged in any way should they be terminally ill and unconscious, while others may want all means possible used to keep them alive. Still, others may wish to decline all life prolonging treatment with the exception of food and water.

Regardless of your decision, it is critical that you discuss your wishes with your loved ones and medical team. While an Advanced Directive is clear and convincing evidence of a person’s wishes, it is possible from a practical standpoint in a true end-of-life situation, the document strength might be diminished if parents, children or spouses claim that the Advanced Directive does not reflect their loved one’s wishes. This could also happen if close family members simply don’t agree with one another on whether or not the Advanced Directive reflects their loved one’s wishes.

The key is to act now. You will want to begin by contacting an elder law attorney to discuss questions that you may have about Advanced Directives. Once you have been educated about your options, you can make the decision that is right for you. And once your decision is made and you have acted on it, you can take the next step of discussing your wishes with your loved ones. Good elder law attorneys who take a holistic approach serving their clients can help you with this part as well.

©Surprenant & Beneski, P.C. 35 Arnold Street, New Bedford, MA 02740, 336 South Street, Hyannis MA 02601 and 45 Bristol Drive, Easton MA 02375.  This article is for illustration purposes only.  This handout does not constitute legal advice.  There is no attorney/client relationship created with Surprenant & Beneski, P.C. by this article.  DO NOT make decisions based upon information in this handout.  Every family is unique and legal advice can only be given after an individual consultation with an elder law attorney.  Any decisions made without proper legal advice may cause significant legal and financial problems.