What an advance directive or living will addresses is the possibility of future incapacitation. These legal documents allow you to retain a measure of control over your life when you become incapacitated.
To learn more about these documents and how a lawyer could help you draft one, speak to a dedicated legal professional today.
A living will is predominantly geared towards decisions regarding death-delaying procedures and instances where a patient has a terminal condition. The difference between a living will and a healthcare power of attorney is that a healthcare power of attorney applies to all types of medical decisions, while a living will primarily addresses death-delaying medical treatment.
If a person is temporarily incapacitated, the medical decisions are drawn from the advice of medical professionals as opposed to the living will. A living will often applies when a patient has what a physician calls a terminal condition where, in the opinion of the doctor, they are in a state where they cannot make their decisions, they are incapacitated, and there is little chance that their condition improves. If it is determined that someone is only temporarily incapacitated, a living will would likely not be invoked.
The line between being temporarily or permanently incapacitated is typically drawn by a physician. There are certain conditions where a physician could determine if a patient is likely to improve. If the physician believes the patient has a terminal condition, the patient stands little chance of improvement, but such a decision is most frequently made by a medical doctor.
For example, delirium is a temporary incapacitation where a condition or disease is causing a nonpermanent change in an individual’s mental capacity, but once the condition or disease is treated, the individual would return to their normal state and no longer be incapacitated. Dementia, however, is a chronic and permanent condition that could cause incapacitation and for which there is no known cure.
An individual should work on a living will if they are in good health and have any opinion whatsoever regarding the application of death-delaying procedures. The point of a living will is for an individual to draft it when they are healthy and are able to dictate whether or not they want death-delaying treatment, such as intubation or a respirator, in the event that they develop an incapacitating condition.
Life support is any type of medical procedure that only serves to postpone the moment of death. This could include assisted ventilation, artificial kidney treatments, intravenous feeding, blood transfusion, tube feeding, or any procedures that delays one’s death, which is how the Illinois legislature defines life support with respect to qualifying it as a death-delaying procedure.
Nutrition and hydration by themselves do not constitute life support and are not considered death-delaying procedures. To constitute them as death-delaying procedures, they would have to be administered in conjunction with intravenous feeding, assisted ventilation, or the like to the point that if they were removed, the person would die.
This could be different from carrying out certain basic, commonplace things to keep someone alive because while an individual who is incapacitated still needs adequate nutrition, oxygen, and fluids for their body to survive, if the external mechanisms or procedures by which they are receiving those things were removed, they would almost certainly die. Any healthy, functioning individual would not be able to sustain their own life without food, water, or air, but they may obtain and digest those required nutrients by themselves through their own internal processes.
The possibility of facing death-delaying or incapacitating procedures is a thought many people do not wish to dwell on. However, if you anticipate a need in the future for an advance directive, learning about what a living will in Lombard addresses could be beneficial to you. For more information, reach out to a lawyer who could be of assistance.