Essentially, a “living will” lets everyone know what course of medical treatment, if any, you want followed if you are unable to communicate your wishes yourself. The most common examples are a DNR or “Do Not Resuscitate” order, or a statement that you do not want to remain on life support if you are “permanently unconscious” or brain dead. A living will is also known as an “Advanced Directive.” There are three types of living wills: those that give instructions to your healthcare provider regarding the medical treatment you desire, those that give “proxy” power to someone you trust to make the decisions for you without any instructions from you, and those that do both.
The benefits of a living will in Arkansas.
You have the right to make decisions about the medical care you want as your life is ending. Even when you do not have the ability to make those decisions or explain them to your physician. When you are unable to participate in those decisions, a living will can do it for you. A living will can also relieve your relatives of the burden and stress of trying to anticipate what you would want, at a time that is already extremely emotional. That’s why the drafting of living wills is an important function of elder law attorneys.
Many believe that the language used in a living will should be vague enough to allow for the wide variety of situations that may occur. However, the more specific the instructions that you provide are, the less confusion there will be when the time comes to make those decisions. Vague terms usually lead to conflicting interpretations. For example, while you may envision that the directive of “no heroic measures” would include Artificial Nutrition and Hydration (ANH), your doctor may not.
Another conflict may arise in the interpretation of your condition and whether it invokes the living will. A living will only becomes applicable when you are diagnosed with a terminal illness or you have become incapacitated. A physician may not agree that your condition falls into either category. Without the appropriate diagnosis, you may continue to receive medical care against your wishes.
Does a living will mean I am giving up all medical care?
No. You will not be abandoned by your health care providers simply because you have a living will. It will only affect measures the doctors deem as useless. Therefore, the doctors and nurses will continue attending to your needs and comfort.
What is required to make a valid living will?
A Living Will must be written and signed by you or someone else at your direction. It must also be witnessed by two other adults. Arkansas has a statute that governs living wills, known as the Arkansas Rights of the Terminally Ill or Permanently Unconscious Act. The statute requires that you must be of sound mind and at least 18 years of age when you draft and execute a living will. A Living Will is always revocable and can be revoked by you verbally regardless of your physical or mental condition at the time. Also, a Living Will that is executed in another state, but complies with Arkansas law or the laws of the state it was executed in is still valid.
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