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End-of-Life Decision-Making and Options

End-of-Life Decision-Making and Options

It is not easy to talk about dying. The challenge of talking about the topic makes it difficult to give guidance to spouse, other family members, or another person you may leave in a position to make a life or death decision. Your wishes should be the basis for the decision, not those of a person who is not making the best decision for you, but instead what that person or persons are comfortable with. These types of end of life decisions fall under the topic of advanced directives. Information about advanced directives are found at Indiana Code § 16-36-4. This law allows you to write one of two kinds of advance directives:

A “living will” is a document that records your wishes and allows you to make those wishes known in the event you become terminally ill and unable to communicate. It is an advance directive that lists the specific care or treatment you want or do not want during a terminal illness. It may includes directions for use of artificial nutrition if taken off life support, use of a respirator, and blood transfusions. Your living will does not have to prohibit all life-prolonging treatments. Your living will should list your specific choices. It may state that you do not want to be removed from life support devices that are potentially, artificially extending the dying process, but you want a feeding tube for nutrition. You may even specify that someone else should make the decision for you.

A Life-Prolonging Procedures Declaration is the opposite of a living will. It lets physicians know that you want all life-prolonging medical treatments used to extend your life.

In Indiana, for these documents to be legal, they need to be signed by the person executing the document, or , if signed by an authorized representative, the person for whom the document is being executed must be present. Each document needs to be witnessed by two witnesses, eighteen years of age or older. Either of these documents can be cancelled in orally, in writing, or by destroying the declaration yourself. Either can be amended by executing a new version.

It is important to share with your primary physician(s) that you have a either of these advanced directives or if you make any changes to it. The cancellation takes effect only when you tell your physician.

You have specific needs to address your circumstances. Wills, powers of attorney, trusts, and other documents may be part of your estate plan. The best way to start, in order to better understand what you need to protect yourself, your family, and the things you own, is to talk with an experienced professional about your goals and your concerns. We invite you to contact our office to set up a time to meet for an initial consultation. The initial, thirty minute consultation is complimentary and can be a great way to get started in the process of building a plan to meet your specific situation. 

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