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Understanding the Georgia Living Will

The living will is a document that is can be used to describe the way we wish to be treated after our death or when taking any decisions related to delaying our death. In the state of Georgia, the first laws regarding the living were passed in 1984.

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Understanding 	the 	
 	Georgia Living Will	 	
 
 
What Is a Living Will?	 	
 
     A Living Will is a document that could 	be used to postpone or delay our death. 	 	
The name of the document may differ from state to state.  Each state how\
ever 
identifies documents of this nature as adva	nce directives.  They allow us to choose 	
the kinds of medical treatment we want or don	=t want.  Specifically, the Living Will 	
allows us to choose whether or not we want to die naturally, without our\
 death 
being artificially prolonged by various medical procedures. 
 
Does Georgia Have a Living Will Law? 
 
     Yes.  Georgia	=s law was first passed in 1984. 	
 
How Does a Living Will Differ From a Last Will And Testament?	 	
 
      A 	Last 	Will 	and 	Testament 	is 	a legal document that expresses how we want 	
done with our money and other property 	after our death.  Information on the 	
requirements for a Last Will and Testament is available from the Divisio\
n of Aging 
Services or may be available from your l	ocal Extension county agent in the f	orm of	 a	 	
Bulletin #1018, entitled "Wills and Estate Planning."  
 
     A Living Will is different from a La	st Will and Testament an	d has nothing to do 	
with money or possessions.  A Living Will 	deals with how we wish to be treated 	
when we are dying. 
 
 
 
 	Division of Aging Services 	! Dept. of Human Resources 	
 	Consumer & Family Resources 	! Cooperative Extension Service	 	
 
 	 	Page 1

What Does a Living Will Do? 
 
    The Living Will authorizes our doctor	 to withhold or withdraw certain medical 	
procedures which would merely postpone or prolong death	 	
 
When Does a Living Will Work?	 	
If
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
  
 
If we are in a Persistent Comatose Condition (Coma); 
  
 or 	 	
 
If we are in a Persistent Vegetative State	. 	
 
The law was changed in 1992 to allow us to add directions for 
withholding or withdrawing treatment while in a persistent comatose or 
persistent vegetative state.	  	
 w	e have a Term	inal Condition; 	
 
 
 	
What Is a Terminal Condition?	 	
 	
According to the Georgia law, terminal 	condition means an incurable condition 	
caused by disease, illness, or injury.  This	 condition will cause our death, no matter what 	
doctors do.  A Living Will may be used when the	 doctors are not able to cure us or keep 	
us from dying - but do want to keep us alive as long as possible. 
 	
The Georgia law states that two physicians	 (one of whom must be your attending 	
physician) must personally examine us and shall certify in writing that\
: 
 	
there is no reasonable expectation for im	provement in our condition (we will never 	
get any better). 	
 	
our death will occur as a result of this incurable disease, illness or i\
njury. 	
 
 	 	Page 2

What Is a Persistent Comatose Condition?	 	
 	
Under the 1992 changes to Georgia's Living 	Will, a persistent comatose condition is 	
defined as a profound or deep state of un	consciousness where there is no reasonable 	
expectation of regaining consciousness.  This	 means that we are alive but not able to 	
react or respond to life around us and we ar	e no	t e	xpe	cted to awaken from that comatose 	
condition.  A persistent comatose condition with 	no reasonable expectation of waking up 	
is different from temporarily being in a coma. 	 The Living Will lets us state what kind of 	
treatment we want if we are in a persistent comatose condition. 
 
       Like the definition 	of terminal condition, the law stat	es that two physicians (one of 	
whom must be your attending physician) must personally examine us and c\
ertify in 
writing: 
 	
we have been in a deep state of uncon	sciousness for so long that our doctors 	
conclude that the unconscious state will continue, and 	
 	
there is no reasonable expectation that 	we will regain consciousness (we will wake 	
up.) 	
 	
In other words, we can now state whethe	r we want treatment continued if our 	
doctors decide that we will not wake up from the coma. 
 
 
What Is a Persistent Vegetative Condition?	 	
 	
A persistent vegetative state is a state of severe or strong mental impa\
irment in 	
which our bodily functions work, but our mind 	is no longer working.  Sometimes people 	
say that someone in a persistent vegetative conditi	on is technically alive, but their bra	in i	s 	
dead.  Like a terminal conditi	on or a persistent comatose condition, two physicians (one of 	
whom must be our attending physician) must pe	rsonally examine us and certify in writing 	
that: 
 	
our cognitive function is substantially impaired (our brain is not work\
ing), and 	
 	
there is no	 reaso	nable expec	tatio	n that we 	will regain brain function (we will not get 	
better.) 	
 
 	 	Page 3 	
This means that if our brain is not working,	 and doctors do not believe we will ever 	
recover, we can decide in advance whether we want treatment continued.

What Are Life Sustaining Procedures?	 	
 
     Life sustaining procedures mean any medical procedures or interventions \
which serve 	
only to prolong but not prevent the dying pr	ocess.  For example, we may be unable to 	
breathe without the help of a machine (called a 	respirator).  If we had a Living Will, the 	
doctors would know that we do not wish to be	 hooked up to such a machine if it would 	
only prolong the dying process. 
 
 
What about Feeding Tubes?	 	
 	
We may be so ill that we cannot chew or sw	allow food.  In such a case, our doctor 	
might order 	Aartificial nutrition	@ which means that they will feed us through a tube that is 	
attached to our nose or directly to our stomach.  	Under Georgia's law, we can now 	
refuse feeding tubes through a Living Will	. 	
 
What about Pain Medicine?	 	
 	
Georgia law and standard medical practice 	assure that we will be given medicine to 	
relieve our pain unless we choose not to.  A Li	ving Will and Durable Power of Attorney for 	
Health Care do not deny us the right to be	 kept comfortable and as free of pain as 	
possible. 
 
What about Water?	 	
 	
The Living Will gives us the opportunity 	to decide whether or not we want to be 	
given artificial hydration (water) through 	our veins in the event that we cannot drink 	
water.  	Under Georgia's law, we can now re	fuse artificial hydration (water) 	
through a Living Will	. 	
 
 
What Happens in Cases Where a Pers	on Is Completely Dependent but 	
Not Technically Dying?	 	
 	
Georgia passed another law, called the Dura	ble Power of Attorney for Health Care. 	 	
This law allows us to name another person 	to make health decisions for us and gives this 	
person (called our agent) some idea of 	what we may or may not want.  There is a 	
separate document on this law and how to use 	it.  It is also available from the Georgia 	
Division of Aging Services. 
 	 	Page 4

In order to control our medical care in cases 	where we do not know exactly what care we 	
may need in the future but we have someone we	 trust to make those decisions for us or 	
to carry out the decisions that we may have 	already made and explained to him or her - 	
we should consider making a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care.  \
 
 
There is a separate document on this law and ho	w to use it.  It is also available from the 	
Georgia Division of Aging Services.  More de	tailed information can be obtained from an 	
attorney or medical doctor. 
 
Th	e Du	rable Po	w	er o	f A	ttorney fo	r He	alt	h C	are A	ct w	as p	assed d	uring the 1990 session of 	
the Georgia legislature.  It is another step in	 reacting to the health care dilemmas that so 	
many of us may face. 
 
Keep in mind that laws are subject to amendm	ents by legislators and changes by judges. 	 	
Check with a legal advisor to obtain the latest information. 
 
 
Once I've Signed a Living Will, How Long Does it Last and Can I 
Change My Mind?	 	
 
Yes you may change your mind after signing a Living Will.  As long as yo\
ur Living Will was 
signed after 1987, it is good until you revoke	 it, which means you indicate that we no 	
longer wish to have one.  If we do wish to 	revoke our Living Will, we should tear up our 	
copy and notify other people (family members a	nd doctors) who also have a copy.  If your 	
Living Will was actually made and signed before	 1987, it is a good idea to talk with an 	
attorney or someone else knowledgeable ab	out this law to find out whether or not you 	
need to prepare another Living Will. 
 
 
How Do Religions Feel about Living Wills?	 	
 
Living Wills have been accepted by Baptist,	 Presbyterian, Catholic, Church of Christ, and 	
many other denominations or faiths.  Most 	of them agree with this statement, written by 	
the United Methodist Church:  "We assert the 	right of every person to die in dignity 	
w	ithout efforts to prolong terminal illness merely	 because the technology is available to do 	
so." 
 
However, not all churches or a	ll people in those churches agree.  Some vocally oppose the 	
idea of a Living Will.   
 
 	 	Page 5 	
If we have questions, we may wish to talk	 to our minister, priest, rabbi, or spiritual

advisor. 
 
Should Everyone Have a Living Will?	 	
 
      No.  We may decide that we want to liv	e as long as possible.  We may choose not to 	
accept a doctor	=s opinion that we may never recover	 from our terminal, persistent 	
comatose, or persistent vegetative condition.  	The idea of "life su	staining pr	ocedu	res" ma	y 	
sound better to us than the idea of 	Apulling the plug	@.  A Living Will may not fit in with our 	
religious beliefs. 	
The important thing is 	THAT	 we decide, not 	WHAT	 we decide.  	
If we do not make our wishes known in writing, our physicians 
and family will be forced to decide for us.  If we don't make this 
choice, someone else will decide for us. 	
 
Should Everyone Think about a Living Will?	 	
 	
Yes.  It is important that we think about 	this, discuss this with our family, friends, 	
advisors, and make a decision.  After we ha	ve made a decision, we should communicate 	
this decision to our doctors, family members, friends and our lawyer. 
 
 
 
 	If we want to be kept alive for as long as possible - that is our right.\
   	
 
 	If we do not want to have our dying prolonged, that is our right.   	
 
 
 
 	THE IMPORTANT THING IS TO MAKE THAT DECISION  	
 	AND LET THAT DECISION BE KNOWN.   	
 	 	Page 6

What Happens If We Do Not Make the Decision in a 
Living Will or a Durable Power of Attorney for Health 
Care? 
 	
If we do not make a decision for ourselves in advance, 	
members of our family may be forced to make that decision for us.  
We should not ask our family to make that choice for us.   
 
C 	It will be very stressful on them.  	
 
C 	 If we have not put our wishes down IN WRITING, doctors 
may not follow the wishes of our family.   	
 
C 	The situation could become bogged down in court, with many 
people arguing different viewpoints.  	
 
C 	In the meantime, we could remain in a hospital or nursing 
home, hooked up to machines that cannot make us better - 
but will not let us die. 	
 	
Does a Doctor Have to Honor Our Living Will?	 	
 	
NO	.  Our doctor may refuse to honor our Living Will because it does not fi\
t with 	
his/her personal, religious or spiritual beliefs, or	 because it is the policy of the hospital or 	
the nursing home where we are being cared fo	r not to honor Living Wills.  However, our 	
doctor(s) or the facility should help us or ou	r family locate another doctor and/or facility 	
that will honor our wishes. 
 
How Do I Make a Living Will?	 	
 
 	 	Page 7 	
While Georgia may not require that a Living 	Will look just like the form that appears 	
in the law, there are certain requirements of	 the Living Will that must be met by every 	
form.  We may write our Living Will out by 	hand, use a form that is available from a 	
hospital, nursing home, doctor	=s office, or attorney	=s office as well as some that may be 	
available at various stores, but the form shou	ld follow the same basic format as found in 	
the law.

There are rules for who can or cannot witne	ss our Living Will.  In order to protect 	
us, the Georgia law requires that we have two witnesses.   
 	
These witnesses must be: 	
 	
• 	at least 18 years of age; 	
• 	not related to us; 	
• 	not be a person who will inherit property or money from us; 	
• 	not responsible for paying our m	edical bills; and, 	
• 	the first and second witness cannot be 	our doctor or an employee of the 	
hospital or nursing home where we are 	being cared for.  In other words, we 	
could choose friends, neighbors, people we work with, even our minister \
or 
spiritual advisor.   	
 	
We should not ask someone who will benefit or profit from our death. 	
 
    	.	 	We must sign our Living Will while the witnesses watch us.   	 .	 	
 	The witnesses must sign the Living Will while we watch them.	 	
 	
Georgia law also requires that, if we decide	 to make a Living Will while a patient in a 	
hospital or resident of a skilled care nursing 	home, we must have an additional person 	
sign the form.  This third witness 	must	 be the medical director of the skilled nursing 	
home or staff physician not participating in our care.  If we are in a h\
ospital, it must be 
the chief of the hospital staff or staff phys	ician not participating in our care.  Recent 	
changes allow a hospital to designate someone else who is not involved i\
n our care to be 
the third witness. 
 
 
Do I Have to Have a Lawyer to Make a Living Will?	 	
 	
No	.  The law does not require that an attorn	ey prepare or otherwise help us with a 	
Living Will.  However, if you do not compl	etely understand everything, or if we have 	
questions about it, ask an attorney or contact	 the Division of Aging Services.  In many 	
areas o	f the state,	 lawyers will answer o	ur qu	estio	ns abo	ut Living Wills without charging a 	
fee for their advice. 	
 	
Should My Doctor Be Involved in the Making of My Living Will?	 	
 	
Not Necessarily.  A doctor is not required to be involved in this proces\
s.  However, 	
we would be wise to ask our doctor his or her feelings about honoring ou\
r Living Will and 
 	 	Page 8

ask about the policy on Living Wills at the hospital where he or she pra\
ctices. 
 	
Many doctors have had patients who have 	been in a position where they could not 	
improve.  Decisions had to be made about pr	oviding different types of care.  Our doctor 	
could explain to us how Living Wills work and why so many people are int\
erested in them. 
 
 
Once We've Made a Living Will, What Should We Do With It?	 	
 	
Once we have signed our Living Will an	d our witnesses have also signed it, we 	
should have several copies made.  The origin	al should be kept with our other important 	
papers, like our Last Will and Testament, our 	Letter of Last Instructions, (how we want 	
our funeral to be), Details of My Final Arrangem	ents, etc.  These papers should be kept in 	
a place where someone can find them. 
 	
It is important that we also give copies of 	our Living Will to other important people, 	
like family members, and our doctors.  It may 	also be a good idea to carry something in 	
our w	alle	t o	r p	ocketbook stat	in	g that we have	 a Living Will and giving a telephone number 	
where family members can be reached. 
 
 
CONCLUSION	: 	
 	
Thinking and talking about dying is not an	 easy thing to do.  Thinking about a 	
decision being made for us whether we should be	 kept alive or not is not an easy thing to 	
consider, either.  A Living Will allows us to re	tain control over our medical care, even if we 	
are no longer able to communicate.  Deciding	 about a Living Will should help us and our 	
families rest easier, knowing that we will receive the care we want, 
 
 
 
 
  	ONLY the care we wish, or ALL the care we wish. 	
 	 	Page 9

DISCLAIMER	:  This publication contains general info	rmation.  It is not the intention of 	
the University of Georgia Cooperative Extensio	n Service or the Georgia Division of Aging 	
Services to provide specific legal or medical 	advice.  Individuals are encouraged to consult 	
professionals to help them make an informed decision. 
 
NOTICE	:  Laws change both by amendments by 	lawmakers and decisions by courts.  In 	
order to be safe, we should check with an 	attorney or other expert to be sure this 	
information is up to date. 
 
Many people helped in developing and re	viewing this publication in its original 	format.  The Division of Aging 	Services 	
continues to acknowledge thei	r valuable contributions: 	
 	
William M. Droze, Assistant Attorn	ey General, State of Georgia 	
Bryndis R. Jenkins, Vice President of 	Legal Affairs, University of Georgia 	
Susan Jones, Office of Legal Affairs, University of Georgia 
Professors Thomas Eaton and Sarajane Love	, College of Law, University of Georgia 	
Carol Ann Johnson, Cooperative Extension Pr	ogram Leader, Fort Valley State College 	
Don Bower and Esther Maddux, Consum	er & Fam	ily 	Resources, University of Georgia Cooperative  	
 Extension 	Service 	
Rosann Kent, Com	munications Editor, University	 of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service 	
Cindy Apperson Reid, newsle	tter editor, Atlanta, GA 	
Agnes Stell, CFR secretary, University 	of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service 	
Joseph John Baxter, Form	er Adm	inistrative Assistan	t., DHR, Georgia Division of Aging Services 	
 
 	The original format of this publication was written by 	
 	
William H. Reid, Ph.D. 	 	 	 	Eleanor M. Crosby, J.D., M.A. 	
Human Development Specialist 	 	 	Managing Attorney 	
Cooperative Extension Service 	 	 	Georgia Senior Legal Hotline 	
 
The Cooperative Extension Service,	 The University of Georgia College 	of 	Agricu	lture offers educational programs, assistance 	
and m	aterials to all pe	ople	 without re	gard to race	, co	lor, national origin, age, sex or handicap status. 	
DP-CFR-004 	 	
                                                                        \
                                                       	     	
 
 	AN EQUAL OPPORTUNITY EMPLOYER 	
 
Issued in furtherance of Cooperative Exte	nsion 	Work, 	Acts 	of 	May 8 and June 30, 1914,	 The University of Georgia College of 	
Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Agricultur	e cooperating.  	 	 	C. Wayne Jordan, Director 	
 	
This information has been revised and updated as of  	
May, 2002 by the 	
 	State Legal Services Developer  	
 	of the Division of Aging Services	 	
  
 	 	Page 1

"LIVING WILL"	 	
 
Living W	ill m	ade this          day of                                           . 	
(Month, Year) 	
I,               	                                                	, being of sound mind, willfully and 	
voluntarily make known my desire that my	 life should not be prolonged under the 	
circumstances set forth below and do declare: 
 
Check each condition listed below in wh	ich you want the Living Will to apply:	 	
 
1.  If at any time I should 
 	
9	 develop a terminal condition,  	
 	
9	 decline into a persistent comatose condition with no reasonable expectat\
ion of 
regaining consciousness, or 	
 	
9	 decline into a persistent vegetative condi	tion with no reasonable expectation of 	
regaining significant cognitive function, 	
 
as defined in and established in accordance 	with the procedures set forth in paragraphs 	
(2), (9), and  (13) of Code Section 31-32-2 of the	 Official Code of Georgia Annotated, I 	
direct that the application of life-sustainin	g procedures to my body be withheld or 	
withdrawn and that I be permitted to die; 
 
Check only one option from below: 
 
I intend for "life-sustaining procedures" to al	so include nourishment 	and hydration.  I want 	
to be permitted to die and want the followi	ng life-sustaining procedure(s) withheld or 	
withdrawn from me:  
 
9	 nourishment and hydration;      	                 (	I  do not	 want to receive food or water) 	
  
9	 nourishment but not hydration;            (I 	do not	 want to receive food but 	I want	       	
                                                                to recei\
ve water) 
9	 hydration but not nourishment; or             (I 	do not	 want to receive water but 	I want	 	
                                                                       t\
o receive food) 
9	 neither nourishment nor hydration.          (I want to receive  	both	 food and water) 	
 
 	 	Page 2

2. 	  	In the absence of my ability to give 	directions regarding the use of such life 	
sustaining procedures, it is my intention 	that this Living Will shall be honored by my 	
family and physician(s) as the final expressi	on of my legal right to refuse medical or 	
surgical treatment and accept the consequences from such refusal; 	
 
3.   	I understand that I may revoke this Living Will at any time; 	
 
4. 	  	I understand the full import of this Livi	ng Will, and I am at least 18 years of age, 	
and am emotionally and mentally competent to make this Living Will; and \
	
 
5. 	  	If I am female and I have been diagno	sed as pregnant, this Living Will shall have no 	
force and effect unless the fetus is not viab	le and I indicate by initialing after this 	
sentence that I w	ant this Living W	ill to be carried out.                                        	
 	 	       	   	 (	Initial here) 	
 
_________________________________________________________________ 
Signature 
 
_________________________________________________________________ 
City 
 
_________________________________________________________________ 
County 
 
_________________________________________________________________ 
State 
 
 
 
 	 	Page 3

I hereby witness this Living Will and attest that: 
 
1. 	The declarant is personally known to me 	and I believe the declarant to be at least 18 	
years of age and of sound mind: 	
 
2. 	I am at least 18 years of age: 	
 
3. 	To the best of my knowledge, at the time	 of the execution of this Living Will, I: 	
 	
A. 	am not related to the declarant by blood or by marriage; 	
 	
B. 	would not be entitled to any portion of 	the above person's estate by any will or by 	
operation of law under the rules of descent and distribution of this sta\
te; 	
 	
C. 	am not the attending physician of declarant or an employee of the attend\
ing 
physician	 o	r an	 e	m	ployee o	f the h	ospital o	r skilled nursing home facility in which the 	
declarant is a patient; 	
 	
D. 	am not directly financially responsible for the declarant's medical care\
; and 	
 	
E. 	have no present claim against any portion of the estate of the declarant\
. 	
 
 
4. 	Declarant has signed this document in my 	presence as above instructed, on the date 	
above first shown. 	
 
 
                                                                                                    	
Witness 
 
 
                                                                                                   	
Address  
 
 
                                                                                                   	
Witness 
 
                                                                                   	
Address 
 	 	Page 4

An additional witness is required when a Living Will is signed 
in a hospital or skilled nursing facility.	 	
 
This witness is required by law to be the: 
 
Medical director of the skilled nursing facility or staff 
physician not participating in care of the patient or Chief of 
the hospital medical staff or staff physician or hospital 
designee not participating in care of the patient.	 	
 
 
I hereby witness this Living Will and attest tha	t I believe the declarant to be of sound 	
mind and to have made this Living Will willingly and voluntarily. 
 
                                                                                                   	
Witness 
 
                                                                        \
                             
Title/Position of Witness 
 	
 	
 
 	 	Page 5

This is a replication of the Living W	ill form as found in the Georgia Code 	'31-32-4 as of 	
May 2002 with modifications.  It is provided to the people of Georgia fo\
r their education 
and information and is not intended as legal advice. 
 
If you have questions about the law or about any part of this informatio\
n, contact the: 
 
 	
 Georgia Division of Aging Services 	
2 Peachtree Street, NW 	
Suite 9.398 	
Atlanta, Georgia 30303-3142 	
(404) 657-5258  	
 	
 
 
 
 
 
 	 	-i-
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