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Should You Make A Living Will?

Mar 2, 2008
All the newspapers and media channels have been bombarding us with the regular updates on the life of Terri Schiavos family. This incident has become a hotly debated topic in America and also across the world, that has even reached the US Congress. Our legislators have passionately discussed this sensitive issue in detail though there has been no consensus on this topic. However, all of this discussion and turmoil could have been avoided with one piece of legal document.

Not many people know about what a living will is, who should be having a living will and what is the document supposed to do. A living will has some advantages though one should also be aware of the details that are not covered by this document. This document is for people who have doubts about how they wish to be treated, especially in case of a serious health condition or incapacitation. The best way of ensuring that your living will is executed is to have a healthcare power of attorney. In case someone becomes incapacitated, this person who has the power of attorney and is a person you trust will make decisions on your behalf on how you should be treated.

In 1996, the US Congress had passed a law known as HIPAA, that warrants the consent of the patient before any information about his or her medical treatment can be passed on to a third party. Because of this legislation, even though you may have executed a living will with due power of attorney, the executor cannot get access to your health records. In absence of the health records, this executor of your living will cannot take informed decisions on your behalf thereby defeating the very purpose of a living will. Because of this law, the hospital or health care provider may not respect your wishes that you had laid out in your will.

A living will can definitely help in respecting your wishes regarding organ donation or life support issues. However, a gray area exists in conditions where the patient may be ill but still has chance of recovery.

So if you are one of those who want to create a living will for yourself or your loved ones, it is advisable to contact a lawyer who can explain the nuances and omissions. You might spend some extra money by engaging a lawyer but you will realize its importance when it really comes to executing the living will.
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