FAQ's

WHAT IS A LIVING DECLARATION?

A living will is a binding legal document you can complete now which declares what your wishes are regarding the use of life-sustaining treatment, if you should become terminally ill or permanently unconscious.
A living will:
becomes effective only when you are permanently unconscious or terminally ill and unable to communicate;
spells out whiter or not you want life-support technology used to prolong your dying;
gives doctors the authority to follow instructions regarding the medical treatment you want under these conditions;
can't be revoked by anyone but you, and you can change it at any time;
will be followed for a pregnant woman only if certain conditions apply; and
specifies under what conditions you would want artificial feeding and fluids to be withheld.

WHAT IS DURABLE POWER OF ATTORNEY FOR HEALTH CARE?

A durable power of attorney for health care is a legal document with authorizes another person to make health care decisions for you if you lose the capacity to make informed health care decisions for yourself.
A durable power of attorney for health care:
names an individual you trust to make a wide variety of health care decisions for you at any time you cannot do so for yourself-whether or not your condition is terminal;
becomes effective only when you are temporarily or permanently unable to make your own decisions regarding the treatment;
requires the person you appoint to make decisions that are constituent with your wishes ; and
will not overrule a living will in the event you have both documents.

I DON'T KNOW ABOUT LIFE-SUPPORT EQUIPMENT, SO I DON'T KNOW WHAT TREATMENT I'D WANT. HOW DO I GET MORE INFORMATION?

The "living will" law gives each of us the opportunity to learn about our options and assume responsibility for own health care decisions. It is important to talk to your doctor and get your questions answered.

IF I HAVE A LIVING WILL, DO I NEED A DURABLE POWER OF ATTORNEY FOR HEALTH CARE TOO?

Many people will want to have both documents because they address different aspects of your medical care. a Living will gives your instructions directly to your doctor and it only applies when you are permanently beyond medical help and cannot communicate or are in permanent come. A durable power of attorney covers a wide range of healthcare decisions--like approving surgery or changing doctors after an accident--where the patient may be unconscious, but not dying. You might select a spouse or relative to act on your behalf when you cannot, because they know you well enough to know what you would want done.

IF I HAVE A LIVING WILL, AND IT SAYS THAT I DON'T WANT TO BE HOOKED UP TO LIFE-SUPPORT EQUIPMENT, WOULD I STILL GET MEDICATION FOR PAIN?

Yes. A living will only affects care that artificially or technologically postpones death. It would never affect care that eases pain. For example, you would continue to receive oxygen and medical care that includes pain medication, spoon feeding and being turned over in be, so long as you are still able to feel pain.

WHO MAKES THE DECISION THAT I AM DYING OR PERMANENTLY UNCONSCIOUS WITHOUT HOPE OF RECOVERY?

If you've indicated that you don't want your dying to be artificially prolonged, two doctors must agree that you are beyond any medical help and that you will not recover.

 A LIVING WILL MAY BE IMPORTANT FOR A SENIOR CITIZEN, BUT WHY SHOULD THIS BE A PRIORITY FOR SOMEONE IN THEIR TWENTIES?

A living will is designed to give you and your family peace of mind whether you are 25 or 75 years of age. Traffic accidents are the leading cause of death among Ohioans under the age of 45. Nancy Cruzan was thrown from a car and went into an irreversible coma when she was 25. Because she didn't have a living will or durable power of attorney, her family had to struggle in the courts for seven years before life-support machines could be turned off.

WOULD MY FAMILY BE NOTIFIED BEFORE DOCTORS STOP LIFE-SUPPORT TREATMENTS?

Yes. Doctors are required to notify a person named in your living will, or a family member, before following your instructions to withdraw life-support. If that person feels your living will isn't being properly followed, or isn't legally valid, an immediate hearing can be scheduled in probate court to determine if there are legal grounds not to follow your instructions. By law, no one can change or overrule your living will if it was freely and correctly executed.

IF MY CONDITION BECOMES HOPELESS, CAN I SPECIFY THAT I WANT MY INTERNAL FEEDING AND FEEDING AND FLUID TUBES REMOVED?

No special instructions are needed to allow the withholding of nutrition and hydration if your are in a terminal condition and they don't provide you with comfort or relieve your pain. However, if you want to allow your doctor to withhold artificial nutrition/hydration if you are permanently unconscious, your document needs to expressly state this.

MY MOTHER IS IN A NURSING HOME. IF SHE GAVE ME HER DURABLE POWER OF ATTORNEY FOR HEALTH CARE, WOULD THIS LET ME ACT ON HER BEHALF IN EVERY AREA AFFECTING HER TREATMENT?

Yes, but not until she is no longer able to make those decisions on her own behalf. A durable power of attorney for health care covers not just life-sustaining treatment, but all aspects of medical treatment once the patient is unable to express his or her own wishes. A regular power of attorney over a relatives business affairs doesn't apply to medical situations. You need a special durable power of attorney for health care.

IF I WANT TO DESIGNATE SOMEONE TO MAKE HEALTH CARE DECISIONS FOR ME, MUST IT BE A MEMBER OF MY FAMILY?

No, you may appoint any adult you wish as long as it isn't your doctor or the administrator of a health care facility in which you are being treated.

I HAD A DURABLE POWER OF ATTORNEY FOR HEALTH CARE BEFORE 1991 LAW WENT INTO EFFECT. DO I NEED A NEW ONE?

You may, Check with your attorney to make sure that the document you have includes specific language that is required under the 1991 law.

DO I HAVE TO USE THE STANDARD FORMS FOR A LIVING WILL OR A HEALTH CARE  POWER OF ATTORNEY OR CAN I DRAW UP MY OWN DOCUMENTS? IF I WANTED TO USE THE STANDARD FORMS, WHERE WOULD I FIND THEM?

You do not have to use the standard forms. However, in order for either document to be valid, it must include specific language spelled out in the Ohio Revised Code. You should be able to find the standard forms easily. Your physician and attorney will have copies, as will many organizations.

AFTER I HAVE FILLED OUT A LIVING WILL DECLARATION OR FORM FOR A DURABLE POWER OF ATTORNEY FOR HEALTH CARE, WHAT DO I DO?

Make several copies. Give one to a trusted member of your family. Keep another with your personal papers. Leave copies with your physician and your lawyer, and, perhaps, your clergy person.

CAN I HAVE DOCUMENTS THAT SAY THAT IF I BECOME CRITICALLY ILL, I WANT TREATMENT TO CONTINUED USING EVERY AVAILABLE MEANS TO KEEP ME ALIVE?

Yes, but you should talk to an attorney. You will not be able to use the standard forms for the documents. You should also talk to your physician about the effect of your decisions.

 WHAT IS THE OHIO STATE BAR ASSOCIATION DOING TO HELP INFORM THE PUBLIC ABOUT LIVING WILLS AND HEALTH CARE DECISIONS?

In addition to developing this factsheet, the Ohio State Bar Association has co-produced an informational video with the Ohio State Medical Association. The 14-minute video is available to community organizations. For more information, contact your county bar association. With the Ohio State Medical Association, we developed standard forms to make it easier for the people who choose to have these documents, and provided a free copy to every lawyer in Ohio. We will continue to do all that we can to help Ohioans take advantage of their right to control health care decisions that affect their lives.

Would my family be notified before doctors stop life-support treatments?