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Living Wills Designate a Single Decision Maker

November 17, 2003

Re "Living Wills: Not a Be-All and End-All," Commentary, Nov. 12: The authors do a disservice to California residents by arguing vigorously that it is useless to fill out living wills. In California, "living will" is the commonly used term to refer to the legal mechanism that the authors themselves approve of at the end of their article -- the appointment of a surrogate health-care decision maker. California has led the way in developing effective living wills. The current version of this statute is the Advanced Health Care Directive (Probate Code Sections 4700-4701).

The authors are correct that filling out the form by itself is not enough. It is vital also to talk about one's values and general wishes with the surrogate decision maker and other close family members. But they are wrong to scare California residents away from filling out the document. Picking a single surrogate decision maker is essential to avoiding the tragic occurrence of different family members arguing over what should or should not be done for a loved one.

David I. Schulman

Attorney, Los Angeles

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