Directive to Physicians ("Living Will")
What is a Directive to Physicians?
A Directive to Physicians (commonly called a "Living Will," although it is not actually a Will at all) expresses your wishes regarding your preferred level of medical treatment in the following two situations, and none other:
- In the judgment of your physician, you are suffering with a terminal condition from which you are expected to die within six months, even with available life-sustaining treatment provided in accordance with prevailing standards of medical care; or
- In the judgment of your physician, you are suffering with an irreversible condition so that you cannot care for yourself or make decisions for yourself and are expected to die without life-sustaining treatment provided in accordance with prevailing standards of care.
A Directive has no effect if you are pregnant. You may revoke a Directive at any time.
Do I need a Directive to Physicians?
Only you can answer this question. The decision is quite literally one of life and death, and is highly dependent on your personal values and beliefs. In evaluating whether to execute a Directive, you may want to consider what burdens or hardships of treatment you would be willing to accept for a particular amount of benefit if you were seriously ill. You are encouraged to discuss your values and wishes with your family or chosen spokesperson, as well as your physician. Your physician, other health care provider, or medical institution may provide you with various resources to assist you in making your decision.
What other documents should be considered when facing a serious illness?
We provide a free checklist that you can fill out to make known your wishes regarding your preferred standard of medical treatment in various situations. The checklist is not a substitute for a formal Directive to Physicians, but can be very useful in focusing your thinking about your wishes. The checklist can also serve as a helpful guide to your family members if they are called upon to make difficult decisions for you.
Texas law provides for two other types of directives that can be important during a serious illness. These are the Medical Power of Attorney and the Out-of-Hospital Do-Not-Resuscitate Order. You may wish to discuss these with your physician, family, hospital representative, or other advisers. You may also wish to consider organ and tissue donation. If you execute any or all of these documents, be sure to notify your family and physician so they will know to look for this paperwork should the need ever arise.
Separate and apart from your medical affairs, you may wish to consider a Durable Power of Attorney and a Will to help keep your financial affairs in order.
How does a Medical Power of Attorney differ from a Directive to Physicians?
A Medical Power of Attorney and a Directive to Physicians are completely unrelated instruments.
A Medical Power of Attorney authorizes someone to make medical treatment decisions for you when you are unable to make those decisions for yourself. It is used in situations where you are not imminently and irreversibly terminal, but rather you are simply unable to make your own decisions because you are unconscious or otherwise mentally impaired.
The Directive to Physicians is much more narrow in scope: it applies only when your physician determines you are expected to die within a short time regardless of treatment, or that you are permanently unable to care for yourself and will die without life-sustaining treatment.
Your family and friends may be faced with some heart-wrenching decisions in the event you fall victim to a terminal injury or illness. On the one hand will be a desire to use all means available to keep you alive, regardless of your condition, because the alternative is too unthinkable to bear. On the other hand will be the prospect of financially-devastating medical expenses with no real hope of recovery. Whatever your wishes are, one of the kindest things you can do for those close to you is to make your wishes known in advance via a Directive to Physicians. Please call the Killeen attorneys of Roberts & Roberts if you would like to discuss these issues or other estate planning law.