A living will is a document that informs medical personnel about what kind of medical care you want to receive should you be unable to provide this information yourself. This could be because of a physical injury, mental incapacitation, or a loss of faculties due to old age.

Massachusetts is one of a few states that do not recognize the traditional concept of a living will. Instead, the law allows you to place these vital decisions in the hands of another trusted person by creating a health care proxy.

A skilled attorney could help you understand the vital differences between living wills and healthcare proxies. Although you cannot create legally binding living wills in Boston, a lawyer could help you to explore other alternatives that could have a similar impact.

Living Wills vs. Health Care Proxies

There are two primary forms of legal documents that concern medical decisions when you are unable to provide instructions on your own. The first is the living will. A living will is a document that informs medical providers about what kind of treatment you desire should you be unable to provide this information on your own. This can include a do-not-resuscitate order or a desire to seek experimental treatment. While Commonwealth law does not recognize these agreements, it can be helpful to have a living will when creating a health care proxy, which is a legally binding document.

A health care proxy nominates an agent to make medical decisions on behalf of the author. Known as an agent, this person can act in what they consider to be your best interest. It is crucial to understand when choosing an agent that they will be able to make decisions in what they believe to be your best interest. It can be helpful for an agent to have your living will at their disposal so that they have more guidance as to your wishes. A skilled attorney could provide more information about health care proxies in Boston and how they function.

Crafting an Effective Health Care Proxy

Just as it is vital to select the proper person to serve as a healthcare proxy, it is equally important to construct the document to meet the legal requirements. Under Massachusetts General Law § 201D, Section 4, a health care proxy must:

  • Identify the subject of the document as well as the agent
  • Contain language that the subject intends for the agent to make healthcare decisions on their behalf
  • Describe limitations, if any, on that agent’s authority
  • Contain a provision that the agent’s authority becomes effective if the subject is unable to make their own healthcare decisions

In addition, you must sign the document in the presence of two other adults. Those witnesses must also sign the document. Once this signature process is complete, you and your selected agent should keep copies for presentation to medical providers. An attorney in Boston could take the lead in drafting these documents so that they are legally viable and representative of your wishes.

Discuss Living Wills with a Knowledgeable Boston Attorney

 Life is unpredictable, which is why it is always best to be prepared with legal documents that protect your wishes. A living will expresses how you wish to be treated by medical professionals in the event of incapacitation. Although these documents are not legally binding in Boston, drafting them can guide a health care proxy agent and inform your family of your desires regarding medical treatment.

An attorney could provide more information about the legality and use of living wills in Boston and help you draft a health care proxy that outlines your wishes. Call today to set up a consultation with a legal professional.