Nassau County Health Care Lawyer
Queens Living Wills Attorney
The creation of a living will can ensure that your wishes are known even in the event that you are unable to communicate. We the lawyers and staff at the Law Offices of Schlissel DeCorpo have been assisting clients in the composition of their living wills for over 27 years. Our firm knows the importance of an effective living will and the impact that no living will can have on a family. Take control of your own fate and plan for your future with a living will.
To enhance your knowledge about living wills and related matters, please review the content below or contact our office to get in touch with an experienced member of our legal team. We look forward to speaking with you about your individual case and needs.
We have offices in Lynbrook, Queens, and Suffolk County, and we represent individuals throughout New York, including Nassau County, Suffolk County, Westchester County; and New York City’s five boroughs of Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, Staten Island, and all of the surrounding areas.
Living Wills – An Overview
Unexpected trauma or serious illness often brings family members together for the first time in years. Difficult, heart-wrenching decisions usually need to be made. In some families, there may be a natural decision-maker. In others, too many options, conflicting values, friction, and little practice in making joint decisions create fierce disagreements that may hurt both the family and the patient.
Do you trust your family members to make good healthcare decisions on your behalf? Does your family know the quality of life you are willing to live with? Have you informed your family what you consider to be "death with dignity?"
Most people envision a peaceful death at home, surrounded by loved ones. But, 80% of us will die in long-term care facilities, or hospitals. In these settings, many modern healthcare treatment options are readily available. Unfortunately, when a patient can no longer weigh these options themselves, difficult healthcare decisions can fall to distraught family members.
Withdrawing or Withholding Specific Medical Treatments
Many people mistakenly believe the only purpose of a living will is to prevent unwanted medical treatment in the event of a life-threatening illness or injury. However, a living will also provides the option to specify treatment, procedures, or therapies to be undertaken in certain circumstances. It is an important guide for both the physician and the family. When considering drafting a living will, patients must understand and discuss complex medical treatments with their doctor. Health care needs can be unpredictable and change quickly. Living will decisions balance the benefits of potential intervention against the quality of life burdens that may result from care. Treatments that may, or may not be specified include CPR, mechanical ventilation, nutrition, antibiotics, dialysis, and more.
Legal and Ethical Issues Surrounding End of Life Decisions
Living wills are legal in all states, but requirements for creation and use vary from state to state. The commonly used names for living wills are:
- Advance Health Care Directive
- Medical Power of Attorney, or Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care
- Health Care Proxy or Surrogate Decision-Maker
A living will is a work in progress. Circumstances of life change, as do priorities and values. A living will document signed in one state may not be recognized upon relocation to another. Directives can be changed at any time provided the maker remains competent.
Purpose of a Living Will / Advance Care Directives
How do you feel about being placed on a ventilator? Would you consent to life-saving surgery if you were already suffering from advanced stages of Alzheimer’s? In 1999, the Journal of the American Medical Association reported that people suffering from terminal medical conditions often fear the potential burden faced by loved ones making end-of-life decisions on their behalf.
The overarching purpose of a living will is to allow a trusted decision-maker to prevent those who are unconscious or near death from enduring unwanted healthcare treatments. In order for you to direct these difficult health care decisions, a living will must be in place. Without this document, family members can only be able guess what health care treatment you would choose for yourself. In the event there is disagreement over treatment, a physician will typically opt to continue life support. Therefore, planning is critical.
History of Living Wills
Today all 50 states and the District of Columbia recognize living wills as legal documents. Advance directives, also known as living wills, appeared in the 1960s and have continued to evolve over the last 40 years. As social awareness grew from personal experience, legislators were inspired to legally recognize living wills.
Luis Kutner, a notable human rights attorney from Chicago, is credited for creating the original living will in 1967. After experiencing the long and painful illness of a close friend, he advocated for a document allowing people to express their final wishes about using medical life support treatments when nearing death.
Inspired by Kutner, Dr. Walter F. Sackett introduced a bill in Florida proposing the right to choose whether to use life-sustaining equipment. This bill was unsuccessful in 1968 and in 1973.
Living Wills Resource Links
Compassion in Dying Federation – Patient Support and Advocacy
This resource provides information and advocacy resources for patients and family members who are dealing with end of life issues.
Healthtouch Online provides detailed explanations and direction on how to complete a health care directive.
Aging with Dignity
This resource provides information regarding the Five Wishes Living Will that details medical treatment directives as well as spiritual and value based directives.
ABA Commission on Law and Aging
This site provides patients a tool kit for use when completing advance health care planning.
Resources and information to support those who are the assigned decision-makers for complex healthcare decisions.
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