Hospital-Designed “Living Will” BAD
Pro-Life Protective Document GOOD
When you’ve been admitted to a hospital, are in an emergency room, or are having an outpatient procedure at a clinic, if the treatment should put you into temporary cardiac arrest—from which you might easily recover if you are treated properly—the cost for the facility of standard emergency treatment can range from $50,000 to more than $100,000. The medical services industry has long regarded Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) as your presumed, “normal” emergency treatment status, regarding your intention to be revived in an emergency as exceptional—and objectionable.
Hospitals have a strong financial incentive to muscle you into signing away your rights with a deceptively titled “Living Will”—the name conveys the impression that your intentions will be followed, but “Living Wills” are actually designed to give power to hospital administrators and insurance officials to deny expensive treatments that could save your life. You may be prompted to sign such a document when you are under the stress of illness, even in pain.
You need to take time when you are calm and well, to plan and make arrangements for your intentions to be represented when you are in an emergency and perhaps incapacitated. If you take time to perform this task, you have a much better chance of obtaining a positive outcome. You need an “Advance Medical Directive / Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care / Protective Medical Decisions Document”.
Recently, one of our members was unable to help direct the course of treatment of an ill relative, because she lacked a document required by law to express the patient’s intentions. Without it, hospitals are under no obligation to follow an incapacitated patient’s verbally expressed intentions—doctors, or even hospital administrators, may summarily decide that a patient’s life is “futile” (life unworthy of life), and order discontinuation of minimal hydration and nutrition. In the absence of one of the protective documents listed below, hospitals may use medical privacy laws as a pretext for refusing even to provide relatives with information about the condition of a patient who has been admitted to a hospital.
Our friend, Dana Cody’s Life Legal Defense Foundation offers a free, protective document which specifically addresses the requirements of California law.
INSTRUCTIONS (Four Pages)
“About” the Protective Document
FORMS (Eleven Pages)
What You Actually Have to Fill Out and Get Notarized
(Replace underlined words with your specific personal information.)
It is recommended that original documents for each of your loved ones be maintained in a central place, completely filled-in, signed and notarized. The documents should be duplicated and maintained in a second place, in case they are lost or if there is an emergency.
Patients Rights Council
Read before you sign
Suppose you’re going into the hospital for elective surgery.
In the admitting office, you’re handed what seems like a mountain of forms to sign. Because you’re anxious about the surgery, you don’t take the time to read every form carefully. You just sign them all. And then you’re taken to your room.
The surgery goes well. Two days later you’re back at home.
But you don’t even realize that a living will was among the forms you signed. That document is now part of your medical record.
The fact that you can revoke it at any time doesn’t mean anything because you don’t even know it’s there.
Nowadays, it seems like we spend more time signing paperwork than we do receiving treatment. Our natural tendency is to believe we must sign every form we’re given. But that’s not true.
While the facility may be required by law or policy to offer us certain forms to sign, that doesn’t mean we have to sign all of them. In addition, it doesn’t mean we can’t cross out words and even entire paragraphs that are in a form.
But, realistically speaking, we’re almost always under some stress when we’re handed all of that paperwork. So reading everything isn’t something most of us feel up to doing.
So what can you do in such a situation?
If you’re scheduling an appointment or a procedure, the best thing is to pick up such forms in advance. That way you can read them at your leisure and decide what you will or will not sign.
Sometimes, health facility staff members tell patients they must have an advance directive. That’s clearly incorrect. In fact, both federal and state laws prohibit health facilities from requiring such forms. It’s your right to have or not have such a document.
What if you’ve already signed documents that you didn’t read?
That happened to a young man who had the PRC’s durable power of attorney for health care, called the Protective Medical Decisions Document (PMDD). He’d gone into the emergency room on a Friday night with an extremely sore throat. Before he was examined, he signed papers but didn’t read them. He was given some medication and, then, he went home.
A couple of days later, he called me and said, “I think I signed a living will. ” I told him to go back to the hospital and check on what he had signed.
Sure enough—he’d signed a living will.
He asked that it be removed from his medical file but, just to be extra cautious, he then signed a new PMDD. That was important because the PMDD states that you are revoking any prior advance directives, including any living will, health care declaration, health care directive or power of attorney for health care or similar document.
A reminder about the Protective Medical Decisions Document
It’s so important for each and every person from the age of 18 on up to have a carefully drafted durable power of attorney for health care—not a living will. That way, they can be sure that if they’re unable to make their own treatment decisions, either temporarily or permanently, someone they know and trust can make those decisions for them.