LIVING WILLS AND DURABLE POWERS OF ATTORNEY FOR HEALTH CARE

There are two different kinds of legal documents that Ohioans can complete to spell out health care preferences for when they are no longer able to make such decisions. One of these documents is called a “Living Will Declaration.” The other is called a “Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care.”

1. LIVING WILLS

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 a patient is permanently unconscious or terminally ill and unable to communicate;
– spells out whether or not you want life-support technology used to prolong your dying;
– gives doctors the authority to follow your 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;
– specifies under what conditions you would want internal feeding and fluids to be withheld.

2. DURABLE POWER OF ATTORNEY FOR HEALTH CARE

A Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care is a legal document which 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 anytime 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 treatment;
– requires the person you appoint to make decisions that are consistent with your wishes; and
– will not overrule a living will in the event you have both documents

BOTH DOCUMENTS ARE USEFUL

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 beyond medical help and cannot communicate or in a permanent coma.
A Durable Power of Attorney can cover a wide range of health care decisions-like approving surgery or changing doctors — that don’t require a patient to be dying. Often a spouse or relative is selected to act on your behalf, when you can’t, because they know you well enough to know what you’d want done.

STANDARDIZED FORMS ARE AVAILABLE

The Ohio Bar Association and the Ohio State Medical Association, as well as other interested organizations have helped to develop a standard set of forms that comply with Ohio law. You do not have to use the standard forms. However, in order to be valid, certain specific language spelled out in the Ohio Revised Code must be included.

The Ohio Hospice and Palliative Care Organization provides forms for free in a packet entitled Choices: Living Well at the End of Life. Instructions and forms for completing Ohio’s Living Will, Ohio’s Health Care Power of Attorney, and a uniform organ donor card are included in this packet.

WE CAN HELP

If you have any questions about these documents or would like to have them prepared for you personally, please contact one of the following attorneys at the telephone number listed in the left column on this page:

Clifford DeCamp
David Devany
R. Bryan Nace
William Roth, Jr.