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Where there's a will ....

Consider this scenario: You check into the hospital for tonsillitis. While wading through the prerequisite red tape, you are asked if you have a living will.

A living will?

It's just tonsillitis.

You panic.

You go to another hospital.

And you're asked the same question.

As of Dec. 1, health-care institutions nationwide that receive Medicare and Medicaid funds are required to ask incoming patients if they have living wills. In other words, they are required to brief patients about their right to die.

"It will be a bit unnerving to some people," admits Patrick O'Sullivan, public relations manager for Baptist Medical System of Little Rock. "It could be alarming when people check into a hospital for something like a gall-bladder operation and are asked if they've thought about |a living will~."

The requirement is known as the Patient Self-Determination Act. The act stipulates that hospitals, long-term care facilities and other health-care providers ask patients if they have living wills and then provide information to those who do not.

The living will declaration reads, "If I should have an incurable or irreversible condition that will cause my death within a relatively short time, and I am no longer able to make decisions regarding my medical treatment, I direct my attending physician ... to withhold or withdraw treatment that only prolongs the process of dying and is not necessary to my comfort or to alleviate pain.

"If I should become permanently unconscious, I direct my attending physician ... to withhold or withdraw treatment that only prolongs the process of dying and is not necessary to my comfort or to alleviate pain."

Some of the treatments that may be withheld or withdrawn are antibiotics, artificially administered feeding and fluids, cardiac resuscitation, respiratory support and surgery.

The act, which has been called a "medical Miranda," also gives a patient the right to appoint a health-care proxy to stick up for the patient's medical wishes.
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Title Annotation:hospitals are now required to inquire patients about living wills
Author:Webb, Kane
Publication:Arkansas Business
Article Type:Brief Article
Date:Feb 3, 1992
Words:318
Previous Article:A big fish in a small town.
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