What is a Living Will? Part I

combo-livingwill.jpgAs a Jacksonville Estate Planning Lawyer, I find that I am explaining the terms of a Florida Living Will over and over and thought that I might be able to shed some light on what they are and how they are used with Florida Estate Planning.

A Florida Living Will is a document that says if I am both mentally and physically incapacitated and my treating (or attending) doctor and another doctor determine that there is no reasonable probability of my recovery from the condition, you direct that life-prolonging procedures be withheld or withdrawn when the application of the procedures would serve only to prolong artificially the process of dying.

It permits you to die naturally with only the administration of medication or medical procedures deemed necessary to provide me with comfort care or to alleviate pain.

You can agree with the above in one or more of the following conditions

1. When you have a terminal condition 2. When you have an end-stage condition.
3. When you are in a persistent vegetative state

Note in Florida the following definitions apply:

1.”End-stage condition” means an irreversible condition that is caused by injury, disease, or illness which has resulted in progressively severe and permanent deterioration, and which, to a reasonable degree of medical probability, treatment of the condition would be ineffective.

2. “Terminal condition” means a condition caused by injury, disease, or illness from which there is no reasonable medical probability of recovery and which, without treatment, can be expected to cause death.

3. “Persistent vegetative state” means a permanent and irreversible condition of unconsciousness in which there is:

(a) The absence of voluntary action or cognitive behavior of any kind.
(b) An inability to communicate or interact purposefully with the environment.

4.”Life-prolonging procedure” means any medical procedure, treatment, or intervention, including artificially provided sustenance and hydration, which sustains, restores, or supplants a spontaneous vital function. The term does not include the administration of medication or performance of medical procedure, when such medication or procedure is deemed necessary to provide comfort care or to alleviate pain.

After reading the definitions, there tends to be a lot of confusion between terminal conditions and end-stage conditions. You can read them over and over. The best way I have found to explain them is to say that cancer can be terminal. and at the very end when you have diabetes, and you are mentally and physically incapacitated, and you cant express any feelings and things are so bad that 2 doctors say additional treatments will do noting but prolong the process of dying ( this is about the time hospice would be called in).

Look for What is a Living Will Part II to find out what else should but is not usally included in your living will, how to execute one, and why you might want yours notarized, even if not required by the state of Florida.

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