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Keep Your Living Will Up to Date

 Posted on November 14, 2017 in Estate Planning

Lombard estate planning attorneyThe Illinois Living Will Act states that every citizen has the basic right to control decisions about his or her health care. Unfortunately, however, there may come a point in a person’s life where he or she is not able to make such decisions on the spot. Advance medical directives, including living wills, can be used to document a person’s wishes regarding certain types of medical care in certain situations, removing the burden of making such decisions from family members and loved ones.

Those who advocate for living wills say that such instruments are crucial in protecting a patient’s rights. Living wills, in particular, address which types of death-delaying procedures the patient wishes to receive—or not receive—if he or she is ever diagnosed with a terminal condition and is unable to communicate his or her wishes at the time. A terminal condition is one that is incurable and will ultimately result in the patient’s death. Death delaying procedures are defined as treatments that will only serve to postpone the moment of death and commonly include:

  • Assisted ventilation and the application of artificial respirators;
  • Intravenous medication and nutrition;
  • Whole blood transfusions; and
  • Artificial kidney treatments, including dialysis.

A living will cannot direct medical personnel to withhold food or water to allow death to occur from starvation or dehydration.

Validity of a Living Will

In order for a living will to be valid, it must be drafted and signed while the patient still has the ability to make decisions for him- or herself. A witness must also be present. Once a living will has been executed, it is up to the patient to inform his or her doctor of the document’s existence so that it can be made a part of the patient’s medical record.

Responsible Decision-Making

It is important for a person to establish a living will before he or she becomes sick. Once a person is diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, he or she is likely to experience a wide range of emotions which make decision-making even more difficult. Patients should also be realistic about the contents of their living will, especially as they get older. Some people indicate that they want all types of death delaying procedures, forcing medical professionals into continuing to provide care long after the patient’s body has stopped functioning. The problem is, however, than many living wills with such provisions have been in place for years without ever being updated.

Advances in medical technology now allow doctors to keep a person’s body alive long after the person has passed the point of truly living. In addition, the associated costs can be significant. Recent estimates indicate that approximately 70 percent of a person’s lifetime medical expenses accumulate during the last six months of his or her life. These numbers suggest that expensive procedures are being used to prolong life without much consideration for the quality of life being prolonged.

If you have a living will, it is important to keep the document current with respect to medical technology and your changing values. Fortunately, you do not need to make such decisions on your own; an experienced Lombard estate planning lawyer can help. Call 630-426-0196 for a confidential consultation today.



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