Guide to Ohio living wills
A living will guides physicians in treating a person who is terminally ill, in a coma or otherwise near death and unable to make their wishes known. For this document to take effect, two physicians must agree that the person is past the point of recovery and is expected to die soon. Patients can specify:
• Whether they wish for procedures such as CPR or artificial respiration to be undertaken if nothing else is keeping the patient alive
• Whether they wish for intravenous food and liquid to be administered indefinitely or suspended at a certain point
Because Ohio’s laws on living wills are more restrictive than most states’, many people may find it advisable to appoint another person to act their health care proxy. This person is given the power of attorney to make decisions about care once reasonable efforts have been made to communicate with an unresponsive patient. Appointing someone who can execute your wishes as expressed, whether orally in writing, can help ensure the dying process is not artificially extended for patients who have indicated their desire to avoid doing so.
Two witnesses must be present when the patient signs to certify that they are of sound mental health and were not forced into signing the document against their ill. These two people may not be:
• Relatives, either by blood or marriage
• A health care proxy you have appointed
• Any physician involved in caring for you
• If you live in a nursing home, an administrator cannot be a witness
The living will is a customizable document. Patients may find it advisable to go into detail about:
• Their religious beliefs
• Specific treatments that are acceptable or unacceptable, and how long any of them may be administered for
• The minimum quality of life the patient feels is necessary to continue the use of life-sustaining devices
Every copy of the living will is a legally binding document. Though there is no standard template provided by the Ohio government that must be followed, many sample living wills can be found online. The form can easily be completed without the help of an attorney, though you may wish to get legal advice if your requests are particularly detailed or potentially not legal to honor.
The patient should make sure that a copy of his or her living will is within easy access in case of an emergency. Your physician should receive a copy. You may also wish to give copies to family members or keep a copy in your glove apartment. If you are admitted to a hospital, make sure a copy of the living will is entered into your patient information when you arrive.
Physicians must honor the instructions within a living will assuming that doing so is not in violation of the law. To achieve this end, it is helpful to be as specific as possible and have someone ready to act as your proxy who will obey the instructions of your living will as scrupulously as possible.