While most Everett residents take great pains to draft their will, and make provisions for the distribution of their financial assets, they may neglect to spell out their choices about end-of-life care in a living will. The living will – also known as a healthcare directive, medical directive, or directive to a physician – clearly specifies your choices, wishes and intentions about the end-of-life care you wish to receive if you are no longer able to articulate your wishes.

It’s easy to understand why many people postpone drafting their living will. No one wants to confront the reality of their own mortality or the thought that they may be so impaired they may no longer be able to voice their wishes about their medical care.

When is a living will used and what does it specify?

In the state of Washington, a living will is only used in two situations:

  • If life-sustaining treatment can only prolong the process of death.
  • The person is in an irreversible coma with no hope of recovery.

In these situations, it may address use of mechanical or artificial ventilation, use of life-saving drugs and other medications, and other medical decisions made when a person’s condition is no longer expected to improve.

Who needs a living will?

Any person above the age of 18 should have a living will. During the confusion and trauma that accompany a terminal condition, the choices you outlined in your living will comprise the only control you have over what happens to you if your no longer able to articulate your wishes. Any person above the age of 18 with a sound mind can make a living will.

Make scanned copies of the will and give them to your doctor and authorized family members including the person who has durable power of attorney, discussed below. Some even give a copy to their personal attorney. Store the original copy in a safe yet accessible place.

What is a durable power of attorney?

Besides a living will, you can also choose to have a durable power of attorney for healthcare. This is a legal document that allows you to name a person as your agent authorized to make medical care decisions in the event that you cannot make such decisions yourself.

This person will be authorized to stop medical treatment, consent to medical treatment, or refuse medical treatment in a case where the doctor determines you are no longer capable of making such decisions yourself. The durable power of attorney will allow one person, like your spouse, who is intimately familiar with you and your choices in these matters, to make quick decisions when there are sudden changes in your condition that have not been factored into your living will.

Talk to a lawyer about drawing up a durable power of attorney, as well as a living will. A combination of a durable power of attorney and a living will is able to represent your medical care choices when you are no longer able to make a decision on such matters. If you have questions about how to draft a living will, speak with a family lawyer at Deno Millikan Law Firm PLLC. Call (425) 259-2222 to set up a consultation.