Living Wills and Healthcare Representatives

You may have heard the term “Living Will” but aren’t sure what it actually means. This is actually one comprehensive document (signed and dated and witnessed by two people) that contains medical treatments you would and would not want to be used to keep you alive, the appointment of a Health Care Representative, the designation of a conservator of the person for future incapacity and a document of organ donation.

A Living Will isn’t just for older adults. Anyone eighteen years of age or older may make one. Unexpected end-of-life situations can happen at any age, so it’s important for all adults to prepare. Considering that the majority of dying people are unconscious, in distress, or otherwise not able to speak, the living will serves as your voice when you may not have one.

By planning ahead, you can get the medical care you want, avoid unnecessary suffering and relieve your appointed Health Care Representative of decision-making burdens during moments of crisis or grief. You also help reduce confusion or disagreement about the choices you would want people to make on your behalf. Remember, clear written health care direction is a gift to those who love you.

You can also appoint a person to serve as your conservator in this document, in the event the condition is long term and impairs your ability to make your own decisions.

Connecticut Statutes state “Any person eighteen years of age or older may execute a document that contains directions as to any aspect of health care, including the withholding or withdrawal of life support systems. Such document shall be signed and dated by the maker with at least two witnesses . . .”

A Living Will becomes operative when the document is given to the attending physician, and you are determined by the attending physician to be incapacitated. This determination may also be put in writing at the request of your Health Care Representative.

Furthermore, you may revoke a Living Will at any time and in any manner without regard for your mental or physical condition, and your attending physician must make the revocation part of your medical record.

Health Care Representative

Any person eighteen years of age or older may be appointed by you as your Health Care Representative in the Living Will for when you are no longer able to make these decisions for yourself. The person appointed as representative may not act as a witness or sign this document.

You may remove your designated Health Care Representative via another document signed by you and two witnesses. It must be made part of your medical record by your attending physician or health care provider. Removing a Health Care Representative does not affect your Living Will. Also, Connecticut Statutes mandate that “the appointment of the principal’s spouse as health care representative shall be revoked upon the divorce or legal separation of the principal and spouse or upon the annulment or dissolution of their marriage, unless the principal specifies otherwise.”

The information presented here is only meant to offer a brief guide to the law in Connecticut. It is not and should not be construed as legal advice. Questions about your individual circumstances should be discussed with a licensed attorney. A Connecticut lawyer at the Law Offices of Gryk and Frolich LLC can assist you with your advance directives and healthcare documents.

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