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What is a living will

• A “Living Will” is a declaration, in document form, regarding your health care wishes. It states generally that, if you’re in a terminal condition or irrevocable coma, you do not want to be kept alive by medical procedures which merely postpone death.

• Once the Living Will is executed, it can be applied when you have been certified as being in a terminal condition by at least two physicians; have been in a coma for at least seven days, and not pregnant. The physician must give notice to the nearest family members and wait another forty-eight hours after certification for a response. If there is an objection, a court hearing is held and a guardian ad litem is court-appointed for you. With court permission the physician may withhold life support, which does not include withholding pain medication.

• Your attending physician must honor the directives of the Living Will, or relinquish your care. The statute governing living wills specifically states that death due to compliance with the Living Will is not suicide or homicide.

• A Living Will only applies in situations where death is imminent. It does not apply where death is not imminent, but you are unable to make medical decisions for yourself.

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