Liv­ing will to make it eas­ier for ter­mi­nally-ill pa­tients


The Supreme Court re­cently said peo­ple have the right to die with dig­nity. It recog­nised pa­tients’ right to refuse treat­ment when there is no chance of sur­vival by draft­ing a liv­ing will, spec­i­fy­ing that they should not be put on life sup­port if in coma, in­ca­pac­i­tated or veg­e­ta­tive state.

While a reg­u­lar ‘will’ that dis­trib­utes as­sets is of­ten con­sid­ered the back­bone of a com­plete estate plan, a liv­ing will is es­sen­tial in spell­ing out your end-of-life de­ci­sions. It is a doc­u­ment pre­scrib­ing a per­son's wishes re­gard­ing the med­i­cal treat­ment he would want in the event he is un­able to share his de­ci­sion as re­gards his treat­ment, with the doc­tor,” says Anu­radha Shah, chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer, War­mond Trus­tees & Ex­ecu­tors. A liv­ing will al­lows your fam­ily and physi­cians to be as­sured that your per­sonal choices are be­ing re­spected.

Just like a reg­u­lar will, a per­son mak­ing a liv­ing will needs to be in a sound mind, ca­pa­ble of con­vey­ing his de­ci­sions. The liv­ing will should be made vol­un­tar­ily, not be forced or made under the in­flu­ence of some­one else. “The pro­ce­dure mostly is the same as the reg­u­lar ‘will’ used to be­queath as­sets. We tell clients to in­clude liv­ing will when writ­ing the reg­u­lar one,” says San­deep Ner­lekar, founder and chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer, Ter­en­tia Con­sul­tancy.

While writ­ing the liv­ing will, the in­di­vid­ual needs to men­tion that he un­der­stands the con­se­quences of his de­ci­sions. Then he needs to spec­ify the cir­cum­stances under which he would like the life sup­port to be with­drawn. To en­sure that your choices are fol­lowed cor­rectly, you will also need to ap­point a per­son (ex­ecu­tor) who un­der­stands what you would have wanted and take a de­ci­sion on your be­half when you can­not. It means you will want to have a frank dis­cus­sion with this per­son be­fore you choose him. You need to check if he is com­fort­able with your de­ci­sions, if his re­li­gious be­liefs al­low him to carry out your wishes and so on. You can choose more than one per­son to carry out your wishes.

A liv­ing will is a le­gal doc­u­ment like reg­u­lar will. An in­di­vid­ual, there­fore, needs two wit­nesses to sign the doc­u­ment. It also needs to be coun­ter­signed by the ju­di­cial mag­is­trate of first class. It is to con­firm that the will is made vol­un­tar­ily. The ju­di­cial mag­is­trate will keep a copy of the ‘will’ and for­ward an­other copy to the registry of the district court.

“A se­nior lawyer would charge you ~15,000-20,000 to draft the will and get it reg­is­tered,” ac­cord­ing to Ro­han Ma­ha­jan, founder,

If the per­son writ­ing the 'liv­ing will' be­comes ter­mi­nally ill and it has to be put in force, the doc­tor treat­ing the pa­tient need to check with the ju­di­cial mag­is­trate if the will sub­mit­ted to him is au­then­tic or not. Only af­ter con­fir­ma­tion, the doc­tor can pro­ceed with the with­drawal of life sup­port.

A liv­ing will can also be up­dated. You

It should be in writ­ing and must cat­e­gor­i­cally state if the treat­ment needs to be with­drawn or pro­vided

Ap­point a guardian or a rel­a­tive to de­cide on your be­half

Sign the will in the pres­ence of two wit­nesses, and it should be coun­ter­signed by a First Class Ju­di­cial Mag­is­trate

Ex­e­cu­tion can only hap­pen af­ter the med­i­cal board grants per­mis­sion may need to do it af­ter your cir­cum­stances change. You may have ap­pointed your spouse to carry out your wishes, for ex­am­ple, but you are now di­vorced.

Le­gal ex­perts say that it is best to make a new liv­ing will and fol­low the pro­ce­dure. In case of more than one, the re­cent one will be con­sid­ered fi­nal.

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