Advance Health Care Directives: Living Will
Where the health care power of attorney grants discretion to the agent to act on your behalf the living will is a directive. Once this document becomes effective no one gets to change your decisions – except in the circumstance we will discuss below. It is essentially a contract between you and your doctor that the doctor must abide by your wishes or get you a new doctor who can.
There are two circumstances that can launch a living will into effective status: first, once your treating physician and another doctor (two doctors total) determine that your condition is terminal and second, when you are in a permanent state of unconsciousness. At that point your directive is what will happen. Your options when completing this living will form include the direction to provide maximum life sustaining treatment and tube feeding or to withhold all life sustaining treatment and tube feeding that simply prolong the dying process.
Most of these documents provide an agent who can enforce your wishes. That would happen if medical personnel or family members with different views attempt to interfere with the wishes stated in the document. In this case you should choose someone who has similar views as you regarding end-of-life care and someone who will not be easily dismayed in case they are required to take legal action to make sure you are treated in the manner you desire – whether that is against a doctor or family member.
You can also choose someone who has the authority to revoke the living will; however, that seems to shift the burden back on your loved ones (which you were trying to avoid). So often, principals executing a living will will name someone with the power to enforce, and purposefully fail to nominate someone with the power to revoke.