In Estate Planning Awareness, General Elder Law, General Estate Planning

According to a Wall Street Journal Health blog, research proves that advance communication of one’s wishes about end-of-life decisions to loved ones can greatly relieve stress on families placed in the position of having to make these intricate choices. Yet, most individuals lack some type of legal document naming a decision maker in case of incompetency. People procrastinate in completing these documents because they are usually very difficult to understand and can be very expensive. Additionally they lack flexibility to accommodate the patient’s values and preferences, such as religious views.

The U.S. system of medical ethics emphasizes the independence of patient decisions. Their decisions are only questioned if their judgment is impaired by medical or psychiatric illness. Any competent individual may refuse any type of medical treatment if desired due to their constitutional rights to privacy and liberty. In Louisiana, the law recognizes the right of a person to refuse medical care and to declare that in advance of a circumstance when the person may not be able to make or communicate that decision himself. The directive or “living will” instructs your physician regarding the circumstances in which you want to have life-sustaining procedures withheld or withdrawn.

Religion also plays a strong role in end-of-life decisions and many people want their religious views to be respected when they aren’t able to make decisions on their own. Within each faith, there may be a vast variety of beliefs that should be considered when directives are being used.

Some important issues that tend to have a religious standpoint include the following:
• Withholding of nutrition and hydration
• Cardiopulmonary resuscitation
• Comfort care and pain control
• Assisted suicide
• Intervention when a women is pregnant ( i.e. whether life of mother or child is given preference
• Last rites
• Organ donation
• Handling of body after death
• Disposition of remains ( i.e. cremation or burial)

It is important for a client to consider all of these issues so their values and beliefs are sustained when end-of-life decisions have to be made. Ideally, these issues need to be discussed with an attorney so important religious values can be incorporated into their living will. This is especially important when a client is a different faith from those carrying out his or her wishes, such as their attorney, family, or physician.

For more information on living wills, please contact us at 225-744-0027 or toll free at 1-855-88LegacyLA. The Legacy Center of Louisiana is a life caring law firm that provides legal services in the areas of estate planning, elder law, special needs planning and probate in the greater Baton Rouge area and throughout Louisiana. Also visit our website at

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