A living will is a document drawn up by someone to be used in case they fall terminally ill and are unable to make their medical wishes known. This may mean the person is incapable of communication, has been severely mentally impacted and can no longer issue reasonable instructions or is unconscious. In Alabama, this kind of form is known as a “Advance Directive for Health Care.” This form has six sections, though additional instructions can be added at the desire of the person completing it:
• The actual living will component contains instructions for medical procedures to be followed in the event of terminal illness
• The second section allows for the person signing to appoint someone as their proxy in case of incapacitation
• The third section confirms that the person signing understands what they are signing and must be transferred to the care of another physician if the instructions are not followed
• The fourth section includes the signature and birthdate of the person drawing up the document, as well as the date of signing
• The fifth section has the signature of two witnesses who cannot be related by marriage or birth. Witnesses are not allowed to be potential heirs.
• The sixth section has the signature of the appointed proxy, if any.
By far the most detailed and complicated portion concerns the instructions for a living will. In this section, the person drawing up the document indicates:
• Whether they wish to receive treatment to prolong their life if they are terminally ill or injured
• Whether they wish to receive nutrition or hydration intravenously if terminally ill or injured
• Whether they wish to be kept on a life-support system if they fall into a permanent coma
Additional instructions can be included, covering in detail procedures to be followed regarding such measures as:
• Artificial respiration
Two physicians must agree that there is no reason to expect any kind of recovery before the terms of an advance directive can take effect. Advance directives will not be acted upon if the patient is a pregnant female.
Because the advance directive is a customizable form, additional instructions may be added covering such areas as religious steps to be taken at the end of life.
A person must be at least 19 years of age to draft this kind of document in Alabama. It may be revoked at any time, either by destroying the document or asking another person age 19 or older to destroy the document. It is recommended that a copy of this form be easily accessible at all times in case of emergency. You may want to give a copy to your physician or carry the document on your person. If the person is not in sound mental health, their wishes may be challenged by family. However, physicians who are sure the document is legally valid cannot be prosecuted for following its instructions.