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New document could compliment living wills, DNRs

Documents like a living will and medical directive are staples of a solid estate plan. This information dictates how a man or woman will be cared for medically in the event they are incapacitated. However, even these estate planning tools prove flimsy in certain situations.

For example, take a recent occurrence out on the west coast that captured national headlines. An elderly woman was denied CPR and she died as a result. This shows that even with a tight estate plan, confusion can abound in certain emergency situations.

This is why end-of-life care experts in Florida have introduced a document for such occasions. It is referred to as the Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment. Through the document, men and women can note their preferences on such end-of-life care issues as CPR, hospice, pain control and feeding tubes. This is to fill in any gray areas that fall between a living will and a "Do Not Resuscitate Order" -- both of which estate planners should still have.

A bill to sign this document into law was drafted in 2006, but failed. A new bill is poised to reach lawmakers again next year. If the bill passes, the documents will be accepted at all health care facilities throughout Florida.

Living wills can be individually prepared and are not signed by a doctor. For this reason, hospitals and other care facilities are often leery of trusting them in the case of an emergency. A lot of this fear stems from the litigious nature of our society.

A "Do Not Resuscitate Order" is signed by a doctor but only deals with stopping and starting a patient's heart and breathing. It does not specify a patient's wishes on things like feeding tubes or the use of other machines.

These types of estate plans simply cannot wait. When a person is incapacitated, they cannot voice their own wishes, leaving caregivers at the mercy of a living will, "Do Not Resuscitate Order," and, now, possibly a Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment.

Source: SunSentinel.com, "To do CPR or not? New form can help answer that question," Diane C. Lade, March 15, 2013

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