When I am asked to draft a Last Will and Testament for my clients, they often enquire about living wills. Great idea, I say, but I need to point out that it’s not a Will and it has the opposite effect of living. It’s a request to be allowed to die.
Why is it not a Will?
A Will only kicks in after you are deceased. To call this document a living Will is actually a contradiction in terms. A misnomer, because it has to take effect while you are alive.
The document is, in effect, a dying wish.
Doctors are obliged by their Hippocratic oath to do everything in their power to keep you alive, even if you had an accident leaving you in a vegetative state. This document tells your doctor not to resuscitate or revive you if you are in a permanent coma and only the machines are keeping you alive. The medical costs can wipe out all your savings, leaving your family to struggle financially. You are not in a state to make decisions. That is when this living Will must speak for you.
Your family may not switch off the machines, because they can be prosecuted for your murder. Only the doctor can switch it off.
What if the doctor refuses to accept your living Will?
S/he is entitled to refuse to pay heed to your wishes and it does often happen. In such a case, this document will assist your family if they want to bring a court application to compel the doctor to give effect to your last wishes.
This is not a pleasant subject to talk about, but I wanted to dispel some of the misconceptions that people often have and it is good to be better informed when you make some difficult decisions.
If you need more information, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or tel: 021 557 8552.