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Options Available Under an Idaho Living Will

By Lane V. Erickson, Attorney

Like most states Idaho allows an individual to create a living will. Sometimes people use a different name for a living will such as a “Do Not Resuscitate Order” or DNR, or a “Health Care Directive”.  These are all fancy names that lawyers use for this document but they all mean the same thing. A living will is a document where the individual who creates it can provide specific directions to his healthcare providers as to the medical treatment he wants to receive towards the end of his or her life. There are a number of different choices this individual has as to the kind of treatment they either do or do not want to receive.

Under the terms and directions of the document itself, most living will only becomes effective when three specific circumstances exist. The first is that the person has a terminal medical condition. The second circumstance is that the health care providers believe the terminal condition will lead to the imminent death of the individual. And the third condition is that the individual is unable to communicate with their healthcare providers. When these three circumstances occur the living will becomes effective and provides direction to health care providers.

The idea behind a living will is that an individual, when they are healthy and their mind is working fine, has the ability to make decisions about the type of healthcare they want to receive when the 3 circumstances listed above exist. This allows an individual to make this decision themselves while they are able to. More importantly, it takes the burden of making this decision off the shoulders of the individual’s loved ones. Otherwise, if the 3 circumstances above existed, the doctors would turn to the family members and ask what they would want. The decisions of the family members, made under the stresses of an emergency medical situation, could easily be contrary to the wishes of the individual themselves.

The types of choices that a person has include a complete range of requiring Healthcare Providers to supply every type of medical treatment available to keep the person alive as long as possible, or the opposite which is to provide no medical services to keep the personal life. There are a number of choices in between these two extremes. However, I found after working with many clients that most individuals do not want to be kept alive artificially. For this reason I found that most individuals make an election To receive enough medical treatment to keep them free of pain and distress, which often usually means receiving painkillers or other medications, but not receiving any other life-sustaining services.

Occasionally I do have clients who do want to receive life-sustaining medical procedures. However, most of my clients who say this indicate that they only want to be kept alive long enough for their family to have time together before life-saving machines would be turned off and the person would be allowed to pass away naturally. In talking with clients I’ve found that most of them are concerned about the high cost of medical procedures. My clients often tell me that they do not want to leave large medical bills for their family to take care of after they are gone.

No matter what choices a person makes in their living will it is important to understand that it is their choice to make. Often, well meaning family members or even Medical Care Providers will try to talk and individual into receiving certain medical care. I’ve found that in these instances sometimes the procedures suggested are contrary to the directions that are given in a living will. However, as mentioned above so long as a person is able to communicate with their medical care providers they can make decisions at any time about the medical care they receive.

Your living will, and your estate planning are your property, and as a result are your decision. If you have any questions about your living will, or how a living will can help you, we can help. Call us toll free at 877-232-6101 or 208-232-6101 for a consultation with Lane Erickson and the Racine Olson team of Estate Planning attorneys in Idaho. You can also email Lane Erickson directly at lve@racinelaw.net. We will answer your Idaho Estate Planning questions and will help you solve your Idaho Estate Planning problems.

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