Living Wills Should Include Specific Instructions

Health Care

Yesterday a client brought in a copy of this New Times Article by Jane Brody:  Medical Due Diligence: A Living Will Should Spell Out the Specifics.  As an elderly man, he was concerned that his wishes might not be respected under his North Carolina statutory living will.  He was right to be concerned.  North Carolina’s standard form, entitled Declaration of a Desire for a Natural Death, contains only statements that “extraordinary means” for keeping one alive are not desired and allows a choice as to whether artificial nutrition and hydration should be withheld or discontinued.  There are no provisions for more detailed instructions.  In my opinion, the state should revise the form to allow much more specificity.  Many states have such forms.

Because of the limitations of the North Carolina statutory form, I often provide clients with a “Medical Directive” which is designed to meet the requirements of NC law, but allows one to specify whether certain procedures or medications are desired or not.  The Medical Directive is often used with the Living Will.
Finally, it is imperative that each person also have a Health Care Power of Attorney.  The Health Care Agent can give direction to health care providers regarding end-of-life care.
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