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Death is an unpleasant topic when we consider it for our parents. Some find it unthinkable when we consider it for ourselves. Yet death is inevitable and it may not come in the way we would wish.

That’s why states like Arizona allow living wills – advance directives that tell doctors, hospitals and your relatives how you or someone you love wants medical care in case of terminal illness, coma, dementia or if the end of life is near.

The main function of a living will

The first thing a living will does is gives power of attorney to another person in case you become incapacitated and either can’t make decisions for yourself or can’t communicate your wishes.

You can choose your spouse or other family member, a friend or trusted member of the community for this function. This person should not be part of your medical team but should be willing to discuss all relevant issues with you, can be trusted to make decisions in your best interest and can be an advocate in case there are disagreements about your treatment.

The Mayo Clinic suggests these topics for living will consideration:

  • Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)
  • Mechanical ventilation
  • Tube feeding
  • Dialysis
  • Antibiotics or antiviral medications
  • Palliative care
  • Organ, tissue or body donations

Valid from state to state

Health care directives are usually valid in other states. Those created in other states are valid in Arizona as long as the directive does not conflict with Arizona laws.

If a physician is unwilling to follow a living will, they are obligated to transfer the case to another doctor who will honor the living will.

If a doctor or hospital is aware of a living will, they can’t be sued for following the directives of the will even if the end result is the patient’s death.

A living will is an important document that puts life-saving decisions into another person’s hands. It is not to be entered into lightly and should have the full force of the law behind it. That’s why it is a good idea to get advice from a qualified, experienced attorney when drawing up a living will.