A will is a document that distributes your property after your death, but a living will directs your medical care while you are still alive. If you become gravely ill now or toward the end of your life, you may not be capable of understanding your medical care options or communicating decisions to your physicians. Ohio law allows you to create a living will, which sets out your wishes in such situations.
Power of Attorney Vs. Living Will
Under Ohio laws, you can create both a durable power of attorney for health care and a living will. While these documents may overlap, they accomplish different goals. Your living will instructs your doctors as to what medical care you want and what you specifically do not want. The durable power of attorney for health care document names another person to make your health care decisions for you should you become mentally incapacitated or otherwise unable to make your own decisions. Your doctors will look to the agent you name in your power of attorney to make decisions unless the situation is specifically covered in your living will.
Your Living Will
Typically, living wills cover end-of-life care like artificial respiration or feeding tubes to prolong your life. For example, if you want artificial respiration but not artificial nutrition, you can spell this out in your living will. In Ohio, doctors are required to notify persons named in your living will or a family member before following your directions to take you off life support. Your living will only becomes effective when you become terminally ill or permanently unconscious. You retain your ability to make medical decisions for yourself until you become incapacitated.
Living Will Requirements
Ohio law will not recognize your living will unless it is signed by two witnesses or notarized. The witnesses or notary must observe you signing the document. Certain persons cannot be witnesses to your living will, including agents named under your health care power of attorney; anyone related to you by blood, marriage or adoption; your physician; or the administrator of your nursing home.
Revoking a Living Will
Your living will does not expire, but you can revoke or change it at any time so long as you are competent to do so. No one else but you can revoke your living will -- not even the agent you name in your power of attorney for health care. If you want to change your living will, you can simply create a new document to replace the old one. If you want to revoke it altogether, you can destroy it or revoke it in writing. You should inform your physicians and loved ones that you have changed your end-of-life preferences so they do not continue operating under the old document.