End-of-Life Legal Issues – Definition & Detailed Explanation – End-of-Life and Hospice Care Glossary

I. What is a living will?

A living will, also known as an advance directive, is a legal document that allows individuals to outline their preferences for medical treatment in the event that they are unable to communicate their wishes. This document typically includes instructions on whether or not to administer life-sustaining treatments such as artificial nutrition and hydration, ventilator support, and CPR. A living will ensures that a person’s healthcare decisions are respected and followed even if they are incapacitated.

II. Who is a healthcare proxy?

A healthcare proxy, also known as a healthcare agent or surrogate decision-maker, is a person designated to make medical decisions on behalf of an individual who is unable to do so themselves. This individual is typically appointed in a healthcare power of attorney or advance directive. The healthcare proxy is responsible for ensuring that the person’s wishes regarding medical treatment are carried out and advocating for their best interests.

III. What is a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order?

A Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order is a medical directive that instructs healthcare providers not to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) in the event of cardiac or respiratory arrest. This order is typically issued when a person does not wish to undergo life-saving measures or when CPR would be medically futile. A DNR order must be signed by a physician and is often included in a person’s medical records.

IV. Who is a guardian?

A guardian is a person appointed by a court to make legal and financial decisions on behalf of an individual who is deemed incapacitated or unable to make decisions for themselves. Guardianship is typically established for minors, individuals with disabilities, or elderly individuals who are no longer able to manage their affairs. A guardian is responsible for acting in the best interests of the person they represent and must adhere to the court’s guidelines and oversight.

V. What is a power of attorney?

A power of attorney is a legal document that grants authority to an individual to make decisions on behalf of another person. There are different types of powers of attorney, including general, limited, durable, and healthcare powers of attorney. A general power of attorney allows the appointed person to make financial and legal decisions, while a healthcare power of attorney grants authority over medical decisions. A power of attorney can be revoked by the person who granted it at any time.

VI. Who is an executor?

An executor is a person appointed in a will to carry out the final wishes and instructions of the deceased individual. The executor is responsible for managing the deceased person’s estate, including distributing assets, paying debts and taxes, and handling any legal proceedings. An executor is typically a trusted family member, friend, or professional appointed by the deceased person. The executor must act in accordance with the terms of the will and fulfill their duties in a timely and responsible manner.