06-24-2008

Law on living will is urgently required




After an accident or sudden illness, most Germans would prefer a quick and humane death to a long and lingering illness in a sickbed. Some people set out whether they want measures taken to extend their lives or not at an early stage in what is known as "living wills". These are intended to ensure that everything takes place in accordance with their wishes, even if they are no longer in a position to articulate such wishes. But even such statements of will are no guarantee, either.

"There is no legal basis. There is enormous legal uncertainty that must finally be ended", Claus-Henrik Horn, lawyer at law office Heuking Kühn Lüer Wojtek, says. This opinion is also gaining an increasing number of political advocates. In a first reading on June 26, the Bundestag therefore will discuss a draft introduced by SPD politician and law expert Joachim Stünker for a so-called "Patient's Living Will Act."

While the Federal Court of Justice in a fundamental decision on March 17, 2003 had recognized the wishes fixed in a living will as generally binding, it remains unclear, however, whether or not the treating doctor must adhere to the treatment instructions. In addition, the requirements for an effective living will are controversial.

"Despite the fact that the legal situation is still problematic, I consider a living will as extremely important even today", Horn clarifies. After all, this way the basic decision is taken as to whether or not life-extending measures are desired if the case arises. In addition, the future patient gives treating doctors precise treatment instructions.

Special precautionary powers of attorney are necessary for entrepreneurs. "Otherwise, the company in question will also be at risk of being unable to act", Horn warns. Should the entrepreneur have failed to take any precautions, the guardianship court will set up a guardianship. "In doing so, the court may appoint both a guardian close to the affected entrepreneur or a third party whose qualifications are uncertain", the expert of Heuking Kühn Lüer Wojtek says.

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