SHOULD I DISCLOSE MY LIVING WILL TO MY CAREGIVERS?
Anyone going into the hospital for any reason knows that one of the first questions asked upon admittance is “Do you have a Living Will?” This document is also called Withholding or Withdrawal of Life Support in Connecticut and/or Advance Directive. Federal law requires that you be asked that question.
If you have a Living Will, hopefully you also have an Appointment of a Healthcare Representative (HCR). A Living Will is the document that, in a nut shell, states that if there is no longer any medical help that will cure your ailment, then you want to be allowed to die a natural death. The HCR is people you appoint to make medical decisions for you should you become unable to do so for yourself.
With that in mind, I counsel my clients to respond to that question above as follows:
“I have a Healthcare Representative. If any questions or concerns come up that I am unable to address, then consult with him/her.”
The reason for this reply is that, at least in my mind and the mind of many Elder Law Attorneys, there is a real question about how much doctors and healthcare providers truly understand if and when the directions in a Living Will are intended to be invoked. It is the intent of everyone that signs a Living Will that before the decision is made to “let you die a natural death” the circumstances are such that there is no more help for you. As a safety net, you may decide it is best to leave the final determination of when that time has come to the person you trust as your HCR after they have received all the input from the doctors rather than the doctors or medical providers themselves.
A concern for some is that the caregiver’s knowledge of the existence of a Living Will may consciously, or even subconsciously, cause them to not make every effort to revive you should you encounter a life threatening event regardless of your overall health which is generally not the intent of anyone. A generally healthy person of any age, who has a life threatening event, would expect that every effort be made to revive him/her until such time as it is determined to be beyond hope. If a 90 year old man was brought in who had a Living Will, would the medical professionals make every effort to revive him? There is no way to be sure, hence the reason I suggest you leave that decision up to your HCR.