1(b). Living Wills
The early documents used to choose a
natural death were called living
wills. The first Living Will was
adopted in California in 1976. By the
early 1990s every state had adopted some
form with which a person could state,
in advance, that (s)he did not want to
receive life-sustaining medical treatments
that would only prolong the dying process.
The Alabama Natural Death Act was similar
to other states, as was the simple,
These early laws and documents failed to provide expressly for
artificial nutrition and hydration or for states of permanent unconsciousness,
yet these are two of the most critical issues for many people. In
the late 90s states began amending their laws and forms. Alabama
was one of the first states to adopt a more extensive Advance Health
Care Directive and to substantially amend its Natural Death Act.
The form passed by the Alabama Legislature in 1997 proved too long
and complicated and lawmakers passed a shorter, simpler version
in the spring of 2001, effective as of August 1, 2001.
It cannot be overemphasized that while executing an advance directive
is important, it is only part of a process: talking with loved ones
about one's values in the context of life and death, making decisions,
executing documents stating your choices, and then being sure that
medical providers are informed and given copies of any executed
documents. Communication is vital.