DIRECTIVE TO PHYSICIANS AND FAMILY OR SURROGATES (LIVING WILL) What is a "Living Will"?
A living will (officially called a "Directive to Physicians and Family or Surrogates" in Texas) is a document that tells your doctor or other health care providers whether or not you want life-sustaining treatments or procedures administered to you if you are in a terminal condition or in an irreversible condition. It is called a "living will" because it takes effect while you are still living.
Is a "Living Will" the same as a "Will" or "Living Trust"?
No. Wills and living trusts are financial documents which allow you to plan for the distribution of your financial assets and property after your death. A living will only deals with medical issues while you are still living. Wills and living trusts are complex legal documents and you usually need legal advice to execute them. You do not need a lawyer to complete your Texas living will.
When does a Texas Living Will go into effect?
A living will goes into effect when: 1) your doctor has a copy of it, and 2) your doctor has concluded that you are no longer able to make your own health care decisions, and 3) your doctor has determined that you are terminally ill or in an irreversible condition.
What are "life-sustaining" treatments?
These are treatments or procedures that are not expected to cure your terminal condition or make you better. They only prolong dying. Examples are mechanical respirators which help you breathe, kidney dialysis which clears your body of wastes, and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) which restores your heartbeat.
What is a "terminal" condition?
A terminal condition is defined as an incurable condition for which administration of medical treatment will only prolong the dying process and without administration of these treatments or procedures, death will occur within 6 months.
What is an "irreversible" condition?
An irreversible condition means a condition, illness or injury that 1) may be treated but is never cured; 2) leaves a person unable to care for himself or make decisions for himself; and 3) without life-sustaining treatment is fatal. Is a Living Will the same as a "Do Not Resuscitate (DNR)" order? No. A Texas living will covers almost all types of life-sustaining treatments and procedures. A "Do Not Resuscitate" order covers only two types of life-threatening situations. A DNR order is a document prepared by your doctor at your direction and placed in your medical records. It states that if you suffer cardiac arrest (your heart stops beating) or respiratory arrest (you stop breathing), your health care providers are not to try to revive you by any means.
Will I receive medication for pain?
Unless you state otherwise in the living will, medication for pain will be provided where appropriate to make you comfortable and will not be discontinued.
Does a Texas Living Will apply if a woman is pregnant?
Texas law is very specific on this subject. The provisions of the living will cannot go into effect if a woman is pregnant.
Can my doctor be sued or prosecuted for carrying out the provisions of a Texas Living Will?
No. Texas law states that no physician or any person acting under the direction of a physician or a health care facility can be held civilly or criminally liable for carrying out the provisions of a valid Texas living will.
Does a Texas Living Will affect insurance?
No. The making of a living will, in accordance with Texas law, will not affect the sale or issuance of any life insurance policy, nor shall it invalidate or change the terms of any insurance policy. In addition, the removal of life-support systems according to Texas law, shall not, for any purpose, constitute suicide, homicide or euthanasia, nor shall it be deemed the cause of death for the purposes of insurance coverage.
Does a Texas Living Will have to be signed and witnessed?
Yes, you must sign (or have someone sign the document in your presence and at your direction, if you are unable to sign) and date the living will. Then it must be witnessed by 2 competent adult people.
At least 1 of the 2 witnesses CANNOT be:
1) Anyone you have designated to make a treatment decision for you;
2) Anyone related to you by blood or marriage;
3) Anyone entitled to any part of your estate upon your death; 4) Your attending physician or an employee of your attending physician;
5) An employee of a health care facility in which you are a patient if that employee is providing you with direct patient care;
6) An officer, director, partner, or business office employee of a health care facility in which you are a patient; or
7) Any person who has a claim against any part of your estate.