LIVING WILL’S IMPORTANCE
Living Wills express personal wishes for end of life care. They state what life-prolonging measures an individual desires, and what measures the individual chooses to refuse. Perhaps more than any other document, a living will is deeply personal and requires that one consider the end of life.
If you want medical providers to use all available means to prolong your life, then you do not need a living will. This would include resuscitation (“CPR”), use of a ventilator, artificial nutrition (“feeding tubes”), and artificial hydration (“IVs”) for as long as you live. If you do not want one or more of these procedures, or other end-of-life care, it is best to prepare a living will.
The Florida laws governing “advance health care directives” attempt to balance the individual’s right to refuse treatment with society’s goal of preserving life. To achieve that balance, Florida law requires living wills be executed with certain formalities and provides a mechanism to challenge in court a surrogate’s decision to refuse or withdraw treatment.
Living wills executed before Florida amended its laws in 2001, 2008, and 2015, or prepared in another state, are effective, but medical providers may hesitate to honor them. Therefore, if expressing your right to refuse treatment is important to you, it is best to prepare a living will that meets Florida’s most recent criteria.
With or without a living will, your health care surrogate, family, friends, and medical providers can support you best if you tell them about your desires. It may seem morbid or insensitive to talk about end-of-life preferences, but no one knows when a catastrophic injury or illness may strike. If we talk about these matters, then we can live every moment of life to its fullest without worrying about what remains unsaid. The common wisdom to “live each moment as if it were our last” is wisdom indeed.