If I don't have a Living Will or Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare, who makes my health care decisions when I'm terminally ill and unable to communicate or in a permanently unconscious state?
Ohio law now recognizes an Order of Decision Makers when you are no longer able to make health care decisions for yourself. This Order of Decision Makers is very similar to the current legally recognized next-of-kin priority order. The law allows next-of-kin:
- To make all your health care decisions if you are terminally ill and unable to communicate.
- To make decisions for the withdrawal of life support if you are in a permanently unconscious state only after a 12-month waiting period. However, this doesn't include the withdrawal of artificially supplied nutrition and hydration (food and water) except as explained below.
What about the withholding of artificially supplied food and water?
The issue of whether you can authorize the withholding of artificially supplied food and water (internal feeding and fluid tubes) depends on your medical condition.
- If you are terminally ill and unable to communicate, and if your Living Will or Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare simply states that you don't want life-support technology used to prolong your life, then artificially supplied food and water can be withheld.
- If you are in a permanently unconscious state, artificially supplied food and water may be withheld only if you have written specific instructions about artificially supplied food and water in your Living Will or Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare.
- If you don't have either of these forms, Ohio law allows your next-of-kin to authorize the withholding of artificially supplied food and water when you are terminally ill and unable to communicate. If you are in a permanently unconscious state, your next-of-kin can make these decisions for you only after a 12-month waiting period and approval from a Probate Court.
By filling out these forms, am I participating in euthanasia or assisted suicide?
No. Ohio law does not allow or condone euthanasia or assisted suicide.
Can I make changes to my forms?
Yes, at any time. In fact, if you already have a Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare, it may be recognized under state law only if the document is substantially in compliance with Ohio's law, which took effect on October 10, 1991. Ohio law didn't formally recognize living wills until this date. It is always a good idea to periodically review your forms to be sure they still reflect your views, and your old forms may not cover specific areas.
Where do I get Living Will and Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare forms?
Many hospitals and health care provider organizations will make these forms available upon request.
To download and print a copy of either from, use these links:
Download our complete Ohio Advance Directives packet >>
What do I do with these forms after filling them out?
You should give copies to your doctor and health care facility to put into your medical record. Be sure and tell your family or friends (persons close to you) about what you have done and consider giving them a copy as well. Do not simply put these documents in a safe place and forget about them.
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