When do we choose to die? While most people don’t ask that question, as we grow older it can loom on the horizon. Being diagnosed with a terminal illness or becoming too weak to make health care decisions can present problems for us, our family members, and our doctors. One strategy for dealing with these situations is to create a living will.
Living Wills Overview
A living will is a legal document. One of the most common uses of living wills is to instruct doctors on our medical care decisions should we become too ill to make or communicate them. Patients diagnosed with terminal illnesses often make a living will to specify the point when they want life-sustaining medical care withheld, direct doctors to avoid specific medical treatments they don’t want to receive, and make other decisions related to their care. Here’s a summary of Montana living wills laws.
Montana Living Wills Laws
Montana’s Rights of the Terminally Ill Act allows terminally ill patients to refuse life-sustaining medical care. Patients can also choose another person, or "designee," to decide when to withdraw or withhold life-sustaining treatment. This is the equivalent of a living will. To do so, patients must comply with a specific process set out in Montana law.
- A person must be 18 years or older and of sound mind;
- The declaration must be made in writing;
- It must provide instructions to doctors;
- It must be witnessed by two individuals; and
- It must be communicated to the patient’s doctor.
A living will declaration only takes effect when a doctor diagnoses a patient with a terminal illness. While creating one may seem cumbersome, there’s some flexibility once you get past the jargon. Anyone who makes a valid living will declaration can revoke it at any time, in any manner, regardless of his or her condition at the time. Telling the attending physician to ignore it should be enough.
For safekeeping, living will declarations are placed in a patient’s medical file. They are also sent to a state registry established for the purpose. Montana’s declaration statute provides a sample form that people can fill out, though using the form isn’t required.
||Declarations 50-9-103; Revocations 50-9-104; Operative 50-9-105; Effect of a Previous Declaration 50-9-108.
||Adults of sound mind can make a declaration. Must be in writing, signed, provide directions, and be witnessed by two individuals. Operative when patient is diagnosed with a terminal illness. 50-9-103.
||Can be revoked at any time in any manner. 50-9-104.
|Validity from State to State
||Montana recognizes substantially similar declarations made in other states. 50-9-111.
|Immunity for Physicians?
||Yes, so long as acted upon in good faith and reasonable medical standards. 50-9-204.
Montana Living Wills Laws: Related Resources
Making a living will should involve planning and discussions with loved ones and doctors. Doing some research can make matters easier. You can find more information about living wills, estate planning, and elder law here. It’s also worthwhile to consult a Montana attorney about any concerns.