Life Lessons & How Tos

A Living Will is a Good Thing, But With a Catch

A living will sounds like a good thing and it is… However, here is the catch.

Everyone connected with it and involved in following its requirements needs to SIGN OFF that they will follow it. No matter what your lawyer tells you, it is worthless if the person whose life is about to be extended against their wishes is not passing in an orderly and pre-determined way. An ambulance trip to the emergency room and you can kiss that Will’s value goodbye.

My Grandmother was 102 years old, in a Florida Nursing home, and completely competent. She had a stroke and fell or vice versa. She was taken by ambulance, unconscious, to the emergency room. IN the ambulance, she was put on O2 through a breathing tube. At the hospital she was put on a breathing machine, then IV Fluids etc. By the time my aunt got there, she had no brain function, but the doctor refused to take her off the machines. Showing her living will to the doctor made no difference at all. The next day my 70+ year old mother flew down and tried again to have her removed only to find a feeding tube had been added. The doctor “explained” my mother would have to go to a court and have the hospital ordered to remove her form life saving equipment and that even though she had a living will, neither he nor the hospital could “Risk” that it might be a fake!

7 Days went by and my Grandmother was now unable to breathe on her own at all, nor swallow, yet she was gaining weight from the feedings!

Finally that weekend the covering physician, who was more reasonable but still UNABLE to do anything, told my mother that if my Grandmother ended up being transferred to another facility, there was a State Law requiring the Ambulance to sustain life and for the receiving facility to continue whatever life support the patient arrived with, until the patient expired.

Something must have snapped in the brain stem of my Grandmother for she took a loud breath as the doctor was explaining this and never took another.

I would estimate this little exercise reaped a couple of hundred thousand dollars for somebody, and would have run up a lot more if grandma hadn’t put a stop to it somehow.

Let everyone know NOT to call an ambulance before notifying THE physician who has signed off on the living will. If the physician says transport, then Immediately call the lawyers for the hospital and the lawyer who wrote up or filed the Living will.

Put a notarized copy of the Will on the gurney with the patient and bring 2 copies with you to the hospital.

Finally, if the person in question lives alone in assisted living or at home, contact the police, local ambulance companies and the local hospital, get names and tell them where the DNR orders are in the apartment or room. Do not leave copies at the desk or office. They will not be available until hours later.Then it will be too late.

Good luck.

One other little fallacy – Powers of Attorney – Great for lawyers but useless in fact. With a complete set of Powers covering every asset or decision my mother would need to have for her last 10 months on earth, all put in my hands, Banks, Mortgage companies and Credit Card Companies all insisted my mother sign additional releases. They absolutely refused to discuss the matter with me. The credit card companies were simpler…they actually froze her accounts for suspicious activity. (I was allowed to pay her bills of course, just not pay for nurses or shucks.)

When I called the lawyer, he was calm about it and said he would file a complaint in court. How helpful.

I suggest that if a loved one is failing, going blind or getting too weak to lift a pen as my mother was, at the time you try a power of attorney, get a joint bank account and add your name to credit cards and anything else you may need for hospice care or nursing care. Otherwise you may find yourself forging checks.

My daughter has these instructions and I have a DNR Necklace with the caveat “Christian Scientist” just in case.

It still may not work.

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