Preparing a Living Will

    “Preparing a Living Will,” Ensign, July 2000, 72–73

    Preparing a Living Will

    As a result of laws and comparable legislation in many countries in the world, an individual can execute a Living Will and a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care. These documents can give families peace of mind when unexpected illness or health problems arise. The following explains the purpose of each document.

    A Living Will takes effect once a terminal medical condition arises or a person is in a persistent vegetative state. It contains your personal instructions to family or medical care providers about your wishes regarding the use of life-sustaining procedures should you become unable to direct your own medical decisions. In such a document you may instruct medical personnel to provide one of three levels of care: extensive life-sustaining procedures, such as a feeding tube and intravenous liquids; limited life-sustaining procedures; or no life-sustaining procedures. One can also request that no artificial life support be administered when, in the judgment of a competent medical practitioner, a condition becomes medically hopeless.

    A Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care is a legal document that lets you empower someone, generally a family member, to be your proxy and to make health-care decisions under circumstances where you are unable to give current health-care directions. An example might be if you were to lapse into a coma or become unconscious. The Durable Power of Attorney is broader than a Living Will because it permits your proxy to handle medical issues for you when you have become incapacitated but your condition is not terminal. The Durable Power of Attorney gives your proxy authority only while the condition continues and terminates once you are again able to be personally responsible for your own care.

    These two legal documents can be helpful for all adults and may be especially helpful for the elderly, who might wish to draw up the documents while they still have their full mental faculties.

    To prepare these documents, families need to counsel together about medical measures that are to be used once an incurable condition arises. These documents must be signed in the presence of two adult witnesses and a copy should be sent to your physician, who will place it in your medical record. Forms and instructions vary from state to state and country to country; these forms can be obtained through some senior citizen service agencies, lawyers, or medical associations.—J. Randolph Ayre, Cottonwood Third Ward, Salt Lake Cottonwood Stake

    Illustrated by Joe Flores