Healthcare decisions are among the most personal and crucial choices we make in our lives. A living will, or an advanced healthcare directive, can ensure that these decisions are respected even when we're unable to communicate them ourselves. This article seeks to explain these important legal documents, their applicability under Missouri law, and how they can provide peace of mind and security.
1. What is a Living Will?
A living will, also known as an advance directive, is a written legal document that specifies what types of medical treatment you would want, or not want, if you become unable to make your own decisions. This could be due to a coma, severe dementia, or other conditions that impair your ability to communicate.
2. What is an Advanced Healthcare Directive?
An advanced healthcare directive is a broader term that can include a living will, a healthcare power of attorney (where you appoint someone to make medical decisions on your behalf), and a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order. These documents allow you to express your wishes regarding end-of-life care ahead of time.
3. The Importance of Living Wills and Advanced Healthcare Directives
Having these documents in place can ease the emotional burden on your loved ones, who would otherwise have to make these decisions in a crisis. They also help to avoid potential disputes between family members over your preferred treatment.
4. Living Wills and Advanced Healthcare Directives in Missouri
Under Missouri law, an advanced healthcare directive must be signed by you and two witnesses to be legally binding. You may revoke or change it at any time as long as you are mentally competent.
Missouri recognizes the "Missouri Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care" form, which combines a living will and healthcare power of attorney into a single form. This form allows you to appoint a healthcare agent and provide instructions for your healthcare should you become unable to do so yourself.
5. How to Create a Living Will or Advanced Healthcare Directive
Creating these documents generally involves the following steps:
a. Determine Your Wishes: Think about your preferences for potential scenarios, like life-support treatments, resuscitation, organ donation, etc.
b. Choose a Healthcare Proxy: This is the person you trust to make healthcare decisions on your behalf if you cannot.
c. Document Your Wishes: Work with an attorney to draft the appropriate documents, ensuring they comply with Missouri laws.
d. Communicate Your Decisions: Make sure your loved ones and healthcare providers are aware of your directives and have access to the documents.
6. Seek Professional Legal Help
Given the significant implications of living wills and advanced healthcare directives, it's highly recommended to consult with a professional estate planning attorney who is familiar with Missouri laws. They can help ensure your documents accurately represent your wishes and are legally sound.
Living wills and advanced healthcare directives are invaluable tools that ensure your medical preferences are honored, even in dire circumstances. By understanding these legal instruments and how they function under Missouri law, you can make informed decisions about your health and well-being.