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Frequently Asked Questions About Health Care Directives Or Living Wills

What is a health care directive or living will?

A health care directive is a legal document that gives a person the authority to make medical decisions for you, in the event that your attending physician determines that you are unable. The legal term provided for in Minnesota statutes for this was “living will” up to 1998. In 1998 Minnesota statutes were amended so that now the document is called a “health care directive.”

What does a health care directive do?

First, it appoints an individual or individuals to make decisions concerning your health care in the event that you are unable to make those decisions yourself. Secondly, it may state your wishes and provide instructions as to how you want your care to be handled in the event that you are no longer able to speak for yourself.

Additional provisions of the form allow you to state your preference as to whether to donate your organs and allow you to state whether you would prefer to be buried or cremated.

It is important to consult an attorney as compliance with local laws is very important to ensure one’s wishes will be honored.

Is just drafting a health care directive enough?

No. You should talk with the person that you have named in the health care directive to act on your behalf in depth about your wishes. More specifically situations regarding withdrawal of a feeding tube (giving food and water by artificial means), withdrawal of life support, administering pain treatments that may shorten life, or other specifics that seem appropriate. Just telling your agent to “unplug you” is not appropriate as it may mean different things to different people.

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