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LIVING WILL
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What is a living will?
A living will is a legal document declaring your wish to die a natural death. It informs your doctors that, if incurably ill, you do not wish to have your life prolonged by artificial or extraordinary means. Therefore, a living will is a form of communication with your doctor which states clearly in advance how you want to be treated when you become terminally and irreversibly ill.

Why are living wills needed?
Medical advances in recent years allow life to be prolonged indefinitely. Respirators, feeding tubes, and other devices can sustain life for months and years in a patient who otherwise would die a natural death.

What is South Carolina law?
The Death with Dignity Act became law March 6. 1986 and was amended by Act 586, May 29, 1988 and Act 149, June 12, 1991. The living will is referred to as "Declaration of a Desire for a Natural Death."

How does a living will work?
The "Death with Dignity" law prescribes a form you can use to express your desire to die a natural death. When your physician has this form, he or she knows it is your desire to withhold or stop procedures that artificially prolong life.

The Living Will only becomes operative if two physicians, including your attending physician, have determined that death will occur within a relatively short period of time, and you are unconscious or otherwise unable to express your wishes for further treatment.

Is withholding or withdrawing life support the same as stopping care?
Absolutely not. Making a Living Will does not mean you will be abandoned. A living will never prevents care that keeps a patient comfortable. Doctors and nurses will continue attending to your needs. Humane treatment will continue. Only useless measures will be prohibited.

How do I prepare a living will?
Fill out the form and sign in the presence of two witnesses, one of whom must be a Notary Public. A lawyer is not necessary, unless you wish to consult one. It is recommended that you discuss your decision with close family members or friends and with your doctor. Read the form carefully, including the section on who can be witnesses.

What do I do with my living will?
A copy should be given to your physician. One or more members of your family (or close friends) should know that you have a Living Will and either have a copy or know where to find a copy. Unlike regular wills, there is no official governmental recording of a living will.

What if I change my mind?
You can revoke your Living Will easily by tearing it up or just informing your doctor by word of mouth or in writing. You have the option of designating a person, on the Declaration, who may revoke the Will on your behalf.

How else can I be assured to be allowed death with dignity?
Consider having your lawyer draft a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care for you. This designates a family member or trusted friend to act as your "attorney-in-fact" in the event that you are unable to make your wishes known. You then carefully inform this person about what you do or do not want done in case of terminal illness, brain injury, or other permanent medical disability.

 




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