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Creating and maintaining a living will

Your health and wellbeing are top priorities and you have the right to determine what kind of medical care you'd like to consider. Unfortunately, it isn't always possible to make those decisions once your health is in decline, so making them sooner rather than later may be a plan worth considering.

A living will offers an individual the chance to determine what kind of medical intervention they would prefer past the point where they can make cognizant decisions. In Pennsylvania, the Advanced Directive for Health Care Act dictates the terms of these documents and ensures their proper use by health care agents and professionals.

To create a living will, your best option is to consult your doctor and attorney to ensure it's both medically relevant and legally applicable. Living wills dictate a patient's wishes in terms of life-sustaining medical care for the terminally ill or injured. An individual can plan for whether they would like life-sustaining treatment initiated, continued or withdrawn by including these preferences in a living will.

Who can create a living will?

Some states differ in the requirements for creating a living will, but the state ADHCA lays out clear guidelines for individuals in Pennsylvania. Requirements for a valid living will include:

  • A person of sound mind
  • Either over age 18, graduate from high school, an emancipated minor or married
  • Signature from the declarant
  • Witnessed by two adults

A living will is utilized when a medical professional determines the declarant is at the point of either incompetence or permanent lack of consciousness due to an end-stage medical condition. You may choose to give a copy of your living will to your regular physician to keep with other medical records and documentation.

Additionally, keep a copy of a living will with other important documents and ensure someone knows the location of these resources. A physician and attorney can keep copies as well, but having one for yourself and family to access can ensure the timely retrieval of these documents when needed.

Updating a living will

Medical advancements and changing personal dynamics may impact elements of a living will. Consult with your physicians, attorney and family to ensure your living will is in keeping with your end-of-life wishes.

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