What is a Living Will and Why is it Useful?

It has been 11 years since the landmark Terri Schiavo case was decided in 2005.  As most memories tend to be more easily forgotten the older they become, it is no surprise that many people today still don’t plan for and sign a living will. For those that don’t remember the case, Mrs. Schiavo was in a vegetative state with no hope for recovery, but her family members, who had the ultimate say in her fate, had split opinions. Her husband stated that she would not have wanted to sustain life in her present state, while her parents enlisted the help of various politicians, all the way up to the President at the time, George W. Bush, to fight for Terri’s life. When Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube was removed, fifteen years had passed since her initial accident. Her case is a grim reminder of the benefits of a living will.

In South Carolina, What is a Living Will?

A living will is a document that states your preferences toward being kept alive when in a vegetative state or when diagnosed with a terminal illness.  The South Carolina living will outlines its most critical provisions on the first page. To summarize, it says:

  • If you elect not to have life support or life-saving techniques used for your medical treatment, providing that your condition is terminal or you are in a persistent vegetative state, you may do so.
    • The condition must be considered terminal by at least two physicians, one of whom must be your attending physician.
  • If there is no way to recover from the condition, then no life-prolonging procedures may be attempted.
    • Only medication meant to provide the patient with comfort care can be administered.  Patient comfort will be given highest priority in treatment.

Why Do You Need a Living Will in South Carolina?

It is easy to see, in Mrs. Schiavo’s case and others, why you would want a living will in place. Of course, everyone is different, and the South Carolina living will provides for this.  In addition to the ability to decline life-sustaining treatment, a living will also allows the party to declare their preference to be kept on life support.  The living will, being a sensitive document by nature, allows for many different options, including the choice for sustained life, the option to completely revoke the document, and the ability to appoint someone to revoke the document for you. No matter your preference, a living will creates a binding contract between yourself, your family, and your physicians and allows you to have input even if you are unable to communicate.

Despite the uneasiness this topic can sometimes create, the fact remains that for many people, having a living will is an immense comfort. As a probate attorney in Summerville, SC, I’ve helped many families navigate the paperwork and hassle of completing and filing living wills and many other documents. If you are considering implementing a living will or would like to discuss your options when it comes to creating a living will, give Watts Law Firm a call today.

2017-11-03T07:56:04+00:00November 15th, 2016|Categories: Probate|