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Living Wills During A Pandemic


A living will, also called a healthcare advance directive, is an estate planning document designed to convey your wishes in the event you are in a terminal or ‘end-stage’ condition or a persistent vegetative state. However, there are always grey areas when dealing with end-of-life care, and during a global pandemic, it can feel even more crucial to ensure your wishes are set out clearly if the worst-case scenario were to happen. An experienced attorney can help you ensure that your documents are in order.

Living Wills vs DNR Orders

Unlike a Do-Not-Resuscitate order (DNR), a living will does not have to affect your medical care, and is not even necessarily required, though it is highly recommended to have one, especially if you are over the age of 40. It is a document designed to make your wishes clear, and is intended only to be activated if you are deemed to be in a terminal or end-stage condition, or a persistent vegetative state, by two different physicians. Contrary to a common myth, having a living will does not mean medical treatment will be withheld or downgraded, even if you ask for it to be – a medical team’s obligation is to treat patients until there is no hope of improvement, and to go against that obligation is seen as a breach of ethics.

Conversely, DNR orders are fairly simple legal orders that state your preference to avoid artificial life-saving treatment if you ever become incapacitated, instead preferring to expire more naturally. Having a DNR order means nothing in terms of efficacy or priority of medical care, even in the event of a COVID-19 diagnosis; it simply means that if all other medical treatment fails, that you prefer to accept that rather than using every potential lifesaving tool at your disposal. It is your responsibility to inform your medical team of your DNR order, if you have one.

Make It Specific

If you do intend to execute a living will, there are certain criteria that you should try to include, and certain standards that you should try to meet. Living wills have acquired a reputation as being ineffective, to a point where study results released in 2017 showed only about 37 percent of those surveyed had any kind of advance directive. This is the case for a variety of reasons – for example, many living wills are poorly executed and too vague to be effective. Others never wind up in the hands of the healthcare surrogate or the medical professionals who would need them.

If you want your living will to be effective, you need a healthcare surrogate who is strong enough to uphold your wishes, potentially in the face of bad medical advice or upset family members. You also need a document that is clear and concise enough to make your wishes known. An experienced attorney who is well versed in estate planning can help ensure that you have a living will that articulates your wishes and is not susceptible to being set aside.

Contact A Naples Estate Planning Attorney Today

Sadly, the COVID-19 pandemic has made estate planning far more of a priority for people who might otherwise not pay attention. If you have questions, concerns or just want to set up a complimentary consultation to discuss your personal legal issues in a confidential setting, contact James R. Nici, the Managing Partner of Nici Law Firm, a Naples estate planning attorney with almost 30 years of legal experience.  This may be the first step toward ensuring all is how you want it to be going forward. Contact our offices today via our website, or on the telephone at 239-449-6150, to schedule your complimentary consultation.


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