A will is an expression of your wishes or desires. When we talk about a will, we are usually referring to your desires concerning the disposition of your property after your death. A Living Will—a will that takes effect while you are still living—is an expression of your wishes concerning medical treatment. The Idaho legislature recognizes “the right of a competent person to have his or her wishes for medical treatment and for the withdrawal of artificial life-sustaining procedures carried out even though the person is no longer able to communicate with the physician.” Idaho’s Medical Consent and Natural Death Act establishes an effective means for making such a communication.
In Idaho, there are two kinds of advance directives—a living will and a durable power of attorney for health care. A single form is used for both and can be obtained from your local hospital, attorney or the Idaho Secretary of State’s web site. Your living will is an advance directive to your health care provider communicating your wishes for medical treatment at the end of your life. Your durable power of attorney for health care takes effect when you are not able to communicate. You may want to personalize your durable power of attorney for health care beyond the basic form by giving directions to your health care agent concerning the type of care you desire and your personal preferences if you become incapacitated.
Idaho also uses a POST form (Physicians Order for Scope of Treatment) to express your wishes concerning how you want to be treated from a medical perspective. The POST form is recognized as Idaho’s Do Not Resuscitate Order. To be valid the POST must be signed by you (or your agent acting as a durable power of attorney for health care) and by your physician. If you have a POST form you should keep a copy of it where it is immediately visible to Emergency Medical Service personnel so that they can honor your wishes.
The POST form and the living will compliment each other. Like suspenders and a belt working together to keep your pants up, a POST form and a living will work together to make sure your wishes are followed.
You may register your living will and durable power of attorney for health care and your POST at no cost in the Idaho Health Care Directive Registry located in the Idaho Secretary of State’s office. By registering these documents your family and health care providers with internet access may view these documents in case of an emergency. You will receive a wallet-size registration card with an individual filing number and password on it from the Secretary of State that you can keep with you.
We plan for every important event in our lives—births, weddings, education and careers. It can be difficult to plan for our incapacity or end of life. However, by planning for them we can assure that our wishes will be fulfilled and our loved ones will have peace knowing what to do.
If you have a question about a senior’s legal, financial or health care need, give us a call. We’d love to talk with you.
Tom Packer is an Elder Care Attorney serving all of Southeast Idaho and is a licensed Nursing Home Administrator.