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Copyright (c) 2010 Quinnipiac Probate Law Journal Association
The Quinnipiac Probate Law Journal

ARTICLE: Living Wills and Alzheimer's Disease


Quinnipiac Probate Law Journal

23 Quinn. Prob. Law Jour. 425


Stephen R. Latham, J.D., Ph.D*


There are many reasons why living wills might fail to work. 1 First, of course, there's the problem that many people still do not have them, so that they never have the opportunity to work. But even where advance directives are in place, they can fail. They can fail because people are rather bad at predicting in advance what it is that they will want or tolerate in the future, so that when push comes to shove, what the document says is at odds with what the incompetent patient appears to want. They can fail because caregivers and healthcare providers do not know about them, or do not have them on hand, or forget to consult them, or do not have time to consult them, when the crucial moment arises. Even when they are consulted, they can fail because they do not actually address the situation at hand, or because they are sufficiently ambiguous that caregivers and surrogates who consult them cannot interpret them properly. And, finally, they can fail even when they are clear, if they conflict with the strongly-held wishes of surrogates or family members. Healthcare providers are often inclined to be more responsive to the insistent relative at the bedside than to the written instructions of the now-incompetent patient. 2 Not only is a live person more persuasive than an old document, he is also, as a potential plaintiff, more threatening.

Consider our hypothetical Mrs. G. She has a "standard advance directive," but it ...
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