Oregon's Living Will Act

By Joe Stone

A living will is a document typically used to give health care instructions to your doctor when you are unable to do so. Each state has its own laws regarding living wills. In Oregon, a living will is known as an advance directive and can be used to state your health care instructions and to appoint someone to act as your health care representative. To make a valid advance directive, you must follow the requirements set forth in the Oregon Revised Statutes 127.505 to 127.658.

A living will is a document typically used to give health care instructions to your doctor when you are unable to do so. Each state has its own laws regarding living wills. In Oregon, a living will is known as an advance directive and can be used to state your health care instructions and to appoint someone to act as your health care representative. To make a valid advance directive, you must follow the requirements set forth in the Oregon Revised Statutes 127.505 to 127.658.

Advance Directive Form

Oregon law requires a specific type of form be used to prepare a valid advance directive. This required form is located in the Oregon Revised Statutes at section 127.531. The primary purpose of the form is to communicate to your doctor how you want to be treated when you are facing an end-of-life medical condition. This can be done by using the form to give specific instructions regarding when to use or withhold life support. You can also use the form to appoint someone to make medical decision for you, including end-of-life decisions.

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Preparing an Advance Directive

In addition to using the required form, a valid advance directive requires: your signature and the date it was signed; two witnesses who observed you signing the form; and the witnesses' signatures. Oregon law places restrictions on who can witness your advance directive -- only one of the witnesses can be related to you by blood, marriage or adoption, and at least one witness must not expect to receive any property under your will. Also excluded as witnesses are your attending doctor, your health care representative as named in your advance directive and, if you are a patient or a resident of a health care facility, the employees, operators and owners of the facility.

Health Care Instructions

Your advance directive gives your doctor instructions about how to treat you when your medical condition presents one of the following end-of-life situations: further life support will only postpone, not prevent your imminent death; you are unconscious and not expected to recover; you suffer from the advanced stages of a progressive illness; or further life support will cause you extraordinary suffering and not improve your medical condition. In addition to your doctor, a second qualified doctor must agree that you face at least one of these situations. Your advance directive will give your doctor one of three instructions: to allow you to die naturally and withhold life support and feeding tubes; to use life support and feeding tubes to sustain your life; or to exercise his own judgment regarding whether to use any life support or feeding tubes.

Health Care Representative

Your advance directive can also be used to appoint another adult to act as your health care representative when you cannot make health care decisions for yourself. Presumably, your choice of representative will be someone you trust, such as a relative or close friend. Oregon law specifically prohibits your doctor or an employee of your doctor acting as representative and, if you are in a health care facility, the facility's owner and employees are also prohibited from being your representative. Oregon law also requires that your chosen representative agree to accept the responsibility for making your health care decisions. Your representative will have the power to make decisions regarding life support or a feeding tube for you only if you specifically include this power in your advance directive.

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Durable Power of Attorney and HIPAA

References

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How to Supersede a Medical Power of Attorney

A power of attorney, or POA, for medical purposes allows you to authorize a friend or relative to make medical decisions for you if you become incapacitated. The health care instructions themselves are detailed in a living will, which specifies what treatments you do or do not want. The person who holds the medical POA, called the agent, is required to act in good faith when carrying out your wishes. For example, if you want to be taken off life support machines at the end of life, a statement to that effect in a living will requires your agent and health care professionals to honor those directives in almost all circumstances. However, the medical POA can be superseded and the power of your agent overridden in a few situations.

Are Living Wills Complicated?

Living wills allow people to control the type of medical care or procedures they receive, even if they are unconscious or otherwise unable to communicate with their doctor. Usually associated with end-of-life decisions such as artificial resuscitation and hydration, tube feeding and artificial respiration, living wills can be used to express any concerns or preferences you may have about the medical care you receive. Living wills must be in writing and signed by the patient; other formalities vary depending upon the state in which the document is signed.

Vermont Rules on Living Wills

The Vermont statutes set forth the state's requirements for an advance health care directive. Advance directives used to be called durable powers of attorney for health care, living wills, or terminal care documents -- and at times, they still are. An advance directive allows you to determine the kinds of medical treatment you do or do not want should you ever become terminally ill or critically injured. It is also a power of attorney that allows you to select an agent to make those decisions for you if you are ever unable to communicate your wishes to your physician.

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