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Little Known Fact about Living Wills | Keystone Elder Law – Mechanicsburg, PA

For many years members of the public have been encouraged to complete a Living Will as part of their Advance Directive. (The other part of an Advance Directive is a durable Health Care Power of Attorney.) Advance Directives, which include treatment preferences, are extremely helpful to family members and physicians when a person is temporarily unable to direct his or her own health care. Unfortunately, many people, including many who have completed Living Wills, do not fully understand Pennsylvania’s regulations concerning Living Wills. A common misconception is that if you state in a living will that you do not want to be resuscitated, you will never be resuscitated if your heart stops or you stop breathing. However, what people do not understand is that there are conditions that must be met before your living will can be honored. A living will applies only when a person is in a permanent end of life stage and will not recover. A physician must have a copy of the living will and certify that the individual is in one of two medical situations: either the person has a terminal medical condition, or the person is in a state of permanent unconsciousness. Consequently, until a physician caring for you makes one of those two medical determinations, the wishes expressed in your living will do not apply. If a person does not want to be resuscitated, but does not meet the criteria for his or her living will to be honored, he or she is between the proverbial “rock and a hard place.” There is, however, another way to handle this situation that does not involve a living will. Generally, every person who is competent to manage his or her health care has the right to accept, limit, or refuse medical treatment. (There are some restrictions on pregnant women being allowed to refuse life-sustaining treatment.) Your personal health care treatment choices can be made in consultation with your physician and are documented by your physician by writing the appropriate orders in your medical record. Any orders limiting medical treatment must be written again into your medical record each time you are admitted to a medical care facility. By working with your physician and completing Advance Directive forms, you can ensure your wishes will be followed in virtually every situation.