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What is a Living Will?

What is a Living Will?

This article is intended for informational purposes only and is not intended to be legal advice.

Although it sounds similar to a Last Will and Testament, which expresses how property is to be distributed upon death, a Living Will in Florida is a legal document in which you, the Principal, declare how you should be cared for in the event you require life-prolonging procedures in the event of no reasonable chance of recovery due to a terminal condition, an irreversible end-stage condition, and/or a persistent vegetative state. A Living Will may be revoked or amended at any time by a Principal.

Why should I have a Living Will?

Each person has a right to make individual decisions regarding their health care. In the unfortunate event of the conditions described above, there may be a dispute between family members as to whether to render life-prolonging care. A Living Will helps to prevent these potential disagreements and ensures that your right to make an individual choice is protected, even upon incapacity, since physicians are required to abide by your wishes regarding your care.

According to Florida Statute 765.101(13) and 765.302, a Living Will is “a witnessed document in writing, voluntarily executed by the Principal” which “direct[s] the providing, withholding, or withdrawal of life-prolonging procedures in the event that such person has a terminal condition, has an end-stage condition, or is in a persistent vegetative state; or a witnessed oral statement made by the Principal expressing the Principal’s instructions concerning life-prolonging procedures.” Florida Statute 765.101(18) defines a Principal as “a competent adult executing an Advance Directive and on whose behalf heath care decisions are to be made or health care information is to be received, or both.” Florida. Statute 765.101(1) defines an Advance Directive as “a witnessed written document or oral statement in which instructions are given by a Principal or in which the Principal’s desires are expressed concerning any aspect of the Principal’s health care of health information.”

Of note, additional related definitions defined by statute are as follows:

Florida Statute 765.101(4) defines end-stage condition as “an irreversible condition that is caused by injury, disease, or illness which has resulted in progressively severe and permanent deterioration, and which, to a reasonable degree of medical probability, treatment of the condition would be ineffective.” Florida Statute 765.101(12) defines a life-prolonging procedure as “any medical procedure, treatment, or intervention, including artificially provided sustenance and hydration, which sustains, restores, or supplants a spontaneous vital function. The term does not include the administration or medication or performance of medical procedure when such medication or procedure is deemed necessary to provide comfort care or to alleviate pain.” Florida Statute 765.101(15) defines a persistent vegetative state as “a permanent and irreversible condition of unconsciousness in which there is [an] absence of voluntary or cognitive behavior of any kind [and] an inability to communicate or interact purposefully with the environment.” Florida Statute 765.101(22) defines a terminal condition as “a condition caused by injury, disease, or illness from which there is no reasonable medical probability of recovery and which, without treatment, can be expected to cause death.”

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