Mark McCown: Living will can help with end of life decision

Published 12:00 am Sunday, April 17, 2022

Dear Lawyer Mark: I have a distant relative in California that was in a car wreck not too long ago.

Even though the doctors that worked on him said he was brain dead, the rest of his family wanted to keep him on life support hoping that he would wake up.

They’ve spent most of their life savings paying to keep his body alive when there’s no chance that he’ll ever recover.

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I’ve told everyone in my family that I don’t want to be kept alive if that happens to me.

One of them suggested I get a power of attorney to name someone to make that choice.

Then I started wondering, what would happen if I did and the person I name doesn’t want to pull the plug?

What should I do, Lawyer Mark? — WORRIED IN IRONTON

Dear Worried: What a person in your position needs is not necessarily a power of attorney, but rather a “living will declaration.”

A living will is a written instrument that basically says that you direct your doctors to withdraw or withhold treatment that will prevent you from dying in certain circumstances.

In order for the living will to be triggered, your attending physician and at least one other doctor must decide to a reasonable degree of medical certainty that you are in a “terminal condition” or “permanently unconscious state,” and that there is no reasonable possibility that you will be able to regain consciousness to where you can make informed decisions.

In the living will, you also name an individual for the doctor to contact in the event treatment is to be withheld.

I recommend that you see an attorney if you want one prepared, and you should give a copy of it to your hospital if you ever require surgery.

Dear Lawyer Mark: My brothers and me recently buried my mom.

Dad’s been dead for a long time. Anyway, my oldest brother was the only one my mom got along with, and she left him some small life insurance money.

She didn’t own nothing else, so me and my other brother didn’t get anything.

When we did the funeral, my oldest brother signed for all the bills and took care of everything.

Well, now he says that we should all pay for the expenses (even though he got all the money), and that he and the funeral home will sue the rest of us if we don’t help pay.

He’s even got the funeral home calling us now to demand some money.

Lawyer Mark, what does the law say we have to do? — STILL MAD AT MOM

Dear Mad: You have no legal obligation to pay anything. Under Ohio law, you have to sign an agreement in writing if you are going to pay for the debt of another person.

Since you didn’t sign anything, you don’t have any liability.

I would recommend that you write the funeral home (and keep a copy of the letter) that you demand they stop contacting you and cease trying to collect from you since you didn’t sign anything.

If they don’t, they may be liable under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act for harassing you.

Thought for the Week: Do not bite at the bait of pleasure till you know there is no hook beneath it. – Thomas Jefferson

It’s The Law is written by attorney Mark K. McCown in response to legal questions received by him. If you have a question, please forward it to Mark K. McCown, 311 Park Avenue, Ironton, Ohio 45638, or e-mail it to him at The right to condense and/or edit all questions is reserved.