I love statistics.
You may be surprised to learn that every medical study ever conducted has concluded that 100% of all Americans will eventually die. What is unfortunate is that 18 to 20% of Americans spend their last days in an intensive care unit. Sadly, this is not how the majority of people say they want to spend their last days. A vast majority of Americans say they want to die at home, but 75% die in a hospital or a nursing home. Incredibly, very few people prepare in advance for these events. One recent study suggests that only 29 percent of Americans have a Living Will or Patient Advocate Designation.
Maybe one reason that so few people have a Living Will is that so many people have no idea why it is necessary to prepare a Living Will. Lawyers often make simple concepts really confusing. Why call something a Living Will when it has nothing to do with what most people associate with a traditional Will (the Last Will and Testament kind)? There are so many other names that could have been chosen. Smartly, in Michigan we don’t even use the term anymore. It is appropriately called a Patient Advocate Designation.
A Living Will or Patient Advocate Designation is a written document in which you inform doctors, family members and others what type of medical care you wish to receive should you become terminally ill or permanently unconscious. The use of the term Living was generally used because it is an advanced directive done while the person is still alive. On the other hand, a Last Will and Testament only becomes effective at death.
A Living Will or Patient Advocate Designation takes effect after a doctor diagnoses you as terminally ill or permanently unconscious and determines you unable to make or communicate decisions about your care. You have the ability to specifically decide how you want your care to be handled before the circumstances occur.
Contemporaneously, with the preparation of a Patient Advocate Designation, a Medical Power of Attorney is drafted to specify to whom you are granting the legal authority to make the decisions that are specified in the Patient Advocate Designation. Although there is often a bit of an overlap, the focus of a Medical Power of Attorney is on who makes your decisions for you and the focus of a Patient Advocate Designation is on what are your decisions.
With a Living Will (Patient Advocate Designation), you can expressly state your wishes. Some examples may be to state:
- “Do whatever is necessary for my comfort, but nothing further.”
- “I authorize all measures be taken to prolong my life.”
Also, you are able to specify whether:
- specific medical interventions are used such as a respirator, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), surgery, antibiotic medication, and blood transfusions;
- you want experimental or non-traditional treatments;
- you want food and water administered through tubes.
The Probate Pro can assist in helping prepare a Living Will (Patient Advocate Designation) and sort through these important decisions.