Guide to Minnesota living wills
A living will is a document which takes effect when a person is terminally ill, in a coma or otherwise close to death and unable to communicate their wishes. While a living will can be written from scratch, any such documents drawn up in Minnesota must closely follow a set text drafted by the state legislature. In this living will, you specify the steps to be taken, whether as directed by a proxy of your choice or by following your written instructions.
After an opening paragraph confirming that you are of sound mental health and making this document of your own free will, you must specify whether you want life-sustaining devices such as artificial respiration to be used if you are dying. Life-sustaining devices extend your life without providing the hope of a relapse. People who do not wish to prolong the dying process may specify which treatments they do or do not want to be used, and how long they should be used before being discontinued. You may also choose to state you want all life-sustaining procedures to be used for as long as possible.
In addition to life-sustaining, you may choose to reject intravenous nutrition or hydration. The document will specify that you understand this will lead to your death via malnutrition or dehydration. You are also encouraged to write as much as necessary about the ideas guiding your thinking, such as any religious beliefs or what you consider the minimum quality-of-life standard necessary to justify life-sustaining processes.
You are given the option of enforcing a proxy to either follow the instructions of your living will, or appoint someone with the discretion to make decisions on your behalf without written instruction. Women who are pregnant should be aware that their instructions will not be followed if there is a chance their fetus can be brought to birth. In such cases, life support will continue as long as the fetus remains viable.
Below this, you may specify any organ donations you wish to make, if any. If you wish to expand the living will to include instructions for your funeral or other proceedings, you are free to do so. The more you customize the living will, the more advisable it is to get an attorney to review your document and make sure it is legally correct.
The living will does not become legally binding until it is signed in the presence of two adult witnesses (neither of whom can be a potential heir or appointed health care proxy), or by a notary public. It can be revoked at any time, in writing or orally. It is the patient’s responsibility to make sure the living will is easily accessible by giving copies to family members or a physician. All copies are as legally binding as the original: if a physician refuses to comply with any of its instructions, he or she must arrange for the patient to be transferred to another doctor who will execute them. Some people may wish to carry a copy of their living will at all times in case of emergency.