Maroney Law Blog

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Importance of a Living Will

Many of us can recall the heartbreaking story of the young woman in Florida who did not designate her end of life wishes, and a terribly drawn out and expensive battle resulted between her young husband and her parents.  He insisted that she would have wanted life support to be turned off whereas her mother and father insisted that she would not.  The result was seven years of agony for the family from the human standpoint, as well as a financially devastating situation for the surviving spouse.  All of this could have been avoided if the young woman had designated her wishes in a Living Will or Health Care Proxy, which would have given clear direction to the health care providers as to what her wishes were.

While not pleasant to discuss, end of life documents are most critical so as to make our transition from this world as easy as possible for our loved ones.
Many, if not most people, would prefer not to be kept alive on life support in the event an illness or an accident places them into a physical situation where they are in what is know as a brain dead or permanently irreversible vegetative state. When and if most people think of such things, they say that they would never want to be kept alive that way.  However, in the day and age in that we live, health care providers will generally refuse to turn off life support and/or will be obligated to perform heroic measures to keep a person alive no matter what their actual wishes may have been unless so stated in a properly written document. 
Many people are concerned that if they sign a Living Will, they will be left to die if they simply have a heart attack, stroke, or go into a coma while under medical care or in the ER.  That, in fact, is not the case.  The Living Will would apply only if a medical team determines that you have absolutely no brain activity and that in their learned and experienced opinion the situation is permanent and irreversible.  Then and only then, will a properly drafted “Living Will” (sometimes known as a “Do Not Resuscitate Order”) come into play in which case artificial nutrition, artificial hydration, and/or artificial breathing apparatus will be discontinued.  Thereafter, if your body goes into cardiac arrest or any other type of situation where death is imminent, the doctors will not perform CPR, heart massage, or any other heroic life saving measures.
As further protection, we recommend that our clients provide a copy of the Living Will and Health Care Proxy to their primary care physician, for she or he is going to surely be contacted when and if you become ill or in an accident.  The primary care physician can then affirm that the documents exist.
Aside from the human factor, there is another consideration and that is the cost of being kept alive on life support for what could be years, which can leave the family in a financially devastated situation.
Many of our clients, for religious or other reasons, do not wish to have a Living Will.  We do not insist that they have such a document. However, we think it critical to discuss these issues, so that if the client does not wish to be kept alive on life support, his or her wishes are clearly delineated in a legal document such as a Living Will.
End of life decisions will never be easy or comfortable, but the existence of a Living Will can ease the transition for you and your family.  We invite you to contact our office to discuss this, and other important end of life documents.  We can even help with the conversation with your loved ones.

Based in Melville and Garden City, New York, the attorneys at the Law Offices of Maroney Associates, PLLC assist clients throughout Nassau County, Suffolk County, Queens, and the cities of Mineola, Hempstead, New Hyde Park, Franklin Square, Williston Park, Queens Village, Melville, Huntington, Farmingdale, Patchogue and Uniondale, NY.

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445 Broad Hollow Road, Suite 25, Melville, NY 11747
| Phone: 866-994-2025
1305 Franklin Avenue, Suite 160, Garden City, NY 11530
| Phone: 866-994-2025

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