At any point in adult life, people may choose to create a living will documenting their wishes for treatment should they become seriously ill. In Ohio, living wills only apply for people who:
• Are terminally ill and incapable of making their own decisions
• Have fallen into a coma
Such patients create living wills to specify that if they are gravely ill, they do not want the process of dying to be artificially extended. Two doctors must agree that the patient is beyond the hope of recovery before a living will’s instructions can be executed.
It is not necessary to have an attorney present at the creation of a living will. All that is required is that a document has been filled out and signed by two witnesses or by a notary public. These two witnesses cannot be:
• Your spouse or children
• Anyone related either by family or marriage
• Anyone appointed to act on your behalf in case of medical emergency in another form
• Your physician
• The administrator of a nursing home where you reside
While there is no one standard form offered by the government, there are many standard, legally valid templates available online.
As determined by the Ohio legislature, there are several specific terms and areas of concern that are covered in a legal will. Some terms you should be aware of:
• “Life-sustaining treatment” refers to medical measures that prolong the process of dying without curing the condition
• “Anatomical gift” refers to any provisions made for organ donation after death
• “Nutrition” refers to food that enters the body through tubes
• “Hydration” refers to any fluids that enter the body through tubes
• A “terminal condition” means there is no hope of a cure and death will happen soon if life-sustaining treatment is not given
In a living will, you may specify what actions are to be taken. You may choose to request that any of the following procedures not be administered:
• Artificial nutrition or hydration
• Life-sustaining treatment
Because Ohio’s living will statutes only cover a limited number of circumstances, many people who are worried about a prolonged death may also want to give someone else the power of attorney. This requires a separate form to appoint someone to make end-of-life decisions about medical care if you are unable to do so but do not meet the requirements a living will must meet to be executed.
Anyone who creates a living will must be in sound mental health when they draft and sign the document. If they are determined to be mentally unsound, the living will’s wishes may be contested or disregarded by family members. The living will may be revoked and replaced with a new set of instructions at any time.
Because a living will can be customized, some patients may want to include detailed instructions about any religious procedures to be followed if they fall ill.