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Posted on: 02/10/2003


CONTACT: Frank E. Bellamy:
Robert G. Montgomery
Franklin County Recorder
373 South High Street, 18th Fl.
Columbus, Ohio 43215
(614) 462-3930
(614) 462-4299, Fax

DATE: 2003


Experts claim that 50% of all Living Wills will not be found in the event of emergency, mainly because the Declarant (the patient) is not competent to communicate at that time. Your Living Will has no affect unless your family can find it. A Living Will is not needed until the patient is permanently unconscious or terminally ill and unable to be aware of this circumstance.

As of December 2001 the Franklin County Recorder's Office was linked to its electronic public access network via the Internet. Within minutes after a document is filed with the Recorder, it may be viewed on-line anywhere in the county, state or nation. Its predicted that within the next few years 80% of the population of the United States will live in areas where the County Recorder will have an electronic public access system. With Living Wills being on file at the Recorder's Office, access can be obtained by any medical facility throughout the nation in a matter of seconds.

Families may not want to make the difficult decision as to “pull the plug” or not.

Many times, the decision is not unanimous in the family and results in a legal battle in the courts. Consequently, the family now has the additional burden of legal fees as well as the trauma of a difficult decision and the financial cost of continuing medical expenses. Even if the decision to disconnect life-support is unanimous in the family, it still may make the family believe that they are responsible for terminating the life of their loved one. This should be a personal decision made solely by the patient. No one would want his or her family deciding an issue this important; The patient should make the decision on his or her own future, and executing a Living Will is the answer.

Where there is no hope of recovery or quality of life, many people do not wish to live months or years on life-support; it will ultimately end in death after a needless and long period of tortured existence for the patient and their family.

A Living Will is designed to give you and your family peace of mind whether you are 25 or 75 years of age.

Traffic accidents are the leading cause of death among Ohioans under the age of 45. Nancy Cruzan was thrown from a car and went into an irreversible coma when she was 25. Because she did not have a Living Will or Durable Power of Attorney, her family had to struggle in the courts for seven years before life-support machines could be turned off. A Living Will is more important for a young adult than an older person.

The professionals would encourage you to seriously consider signing a Living Will, and if you do, bear in mind that it has little affect unless the hospital facilities can find it. Therefore, they urge you to file the document with the County Recorder's Office.

* What is a Living Will Declaration?

A Living Will is a binding legal document you can complete now which declares what your wishes are regarding the use of life-sustaining treatment, if you should become terminally ill or permanently unconscious.

A Living Will:

· Becomes effective only when a patient is permanently unconscious or terminally ill and unable to communicate;

· Spells out whether or not you want life-support technology used to prolong your dying;

· Gives doctors authority to follow your instructions regarding the medical treatment you want under these conditions;

· Cannot be revoked by anyone but you, and you can change it at any time;

· Will be followed for a pregnant woman only if certain conditions apply; and

· Specifies under what conditions you would want internal feeding and fluids to be withheld.

* What is a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care?

A Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care is a legal document, which authorizes another person to make health care decisions for you if you lose the capacity to make in formed health care decisions yourself.

A Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care:

· Names an individual you trust to make a wide variety of health care decisions for you at anytime you cannot do so for yourself - whether or not your condition is terminal;

· Becomes effective only when you are temporarily or permanently unable to make your own decisions regarding treatment;

· Requires the person you appoint to make decisions that are consistent with your wishes; and

· Will not overrule a Living Will in the event you have both documents.

* Ohio's “Living Will” law uses several words, which have meanings that might be helpful to explain here.

Life-sustaining Treatment: any medical procedure, treatment, intervention, or other measure that when administered to you serves principally to prolong the process of dying.

Hydration: means fluids that are artificially or technologically administered through tubes.

Nutrition: refers to food that is artificially or technologically administered through tubes.

Permanently Unconscious: means that to a reasonable degree of medical certainty: (1) you are irreversibly unaware of yourself or your environment; and (2) there is total loss of cerebral cortical functioning - which results in your having no capacity to experience pain or suffering.

Terminal Condition: means an irreversible, incurable and untreatable condition caused by disease, illness, or injury from which, to a reasonable degree of medical certainty: (1) there can be no recovery; and (2) death is likely to occur within a short period of time if life-sustaining treatment is not administered.

Comfort Care: means nutrition and/or hydration when administered to diminish pain or discomfort, but not to postpone death; and any other medical care that diminishes pain or discomfort - like pain medication and turning a patient - but does not postpone death.

Laws change daily due to legislation and court decisions. Before applying it to a specific legal problem you should consult your family lawyer. For more information on locating “Living Will” forms call Robert G. Montgomery, Franklin County Recorder (614) 462-3930

*Some of the statistical information above is excerpts from former Franklin County Probate Judge Richard B. Metcalf

*Portions of this information are reprinted from an Ohio Bar Association publication.

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