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prevention Photo: Annie Spratt / unsplash ENGLISH LIVING WILLS AND POWERS OF ATTORNEY Your own fate in someone else's hands Nobody likes to talk about living wills or powers of attorney. Yet these seemingly boring documents can play a vital role. Andrea Brunner is a qualified social pedagogue and an expert on the topic of prevention in the counseling center of the Munich Aids-Hilfe. Ms. Brunner, you have been dealing with the topic of preventive care and living wills for the Munich Aids-Hilfe for 30 years. Why? 30 years ago the situation for people with HIV / AIDS was much more difficult than it is today. Medication was not as effective and issues such as death, need for care, and helplessness were much more important. That is why it was absolutely necessary at the time to familiarize oneself with this in order to be able to support this clientele in particular. In the meantime, however, my focus has expanded significantly. Let us first clarify: what is a living will anyway? This is a piece of writing in which I state what happens if I get into a life-threatening situation. It clarifies how I will be dealt with in the event of an irreversible dying process, how I will be medically accompanied, and whether life-prolonging measures should be taken. In- 46 CHECK OST #2

prevention cidentally, this has to be formulated precisely, because there are also situations that are not irreversible – and from which one naturally wants to be rescued. Speaking of precise formulation: not long ago the Federal Court of Justice ruled that such an order can be ineffective if it is not unambiguous... This makes the following piece of advice all the more important: a formulation like "If I do not feel very well and I am in a lot of pain, ,no measures should be taken to save me" is too vague to decide which or if any life-support measures can be used. Instead, circumstances should be clearly formulated, for example: “when I have irreversible brain damage” or “when I am mentally no longer able to express myself clearly”. The more concrete and personal you phrase it, the more likely it is to be of help to the doctors, paramedics, or authorized representatives. Does it make sense to get support from a third party before formulating a living will? Of course, it is good to first exchange ideas with relatives or friends. You have to think carefully about who you want to consult because they will ultimately be the ones responsible for seeking contact with doctors in the event of a crisis, enforcing your interests and ultimately determining your fate. Where do I deposit such a ruling? The original document should be kept at home. It is helpful to leave a copy with the attending physician or the appointed representative. You can also put a corresponding piece of information in your wallet, because nurses like to take a look at this when they take in an accident victim, for example. How do I write such a document? In theory, you can write this on a piece of paper and sign it. However, many municipalities, such as the care center of the state capital Munich, provide forms that are easier to use. In more complex contexts, I recommend a notary. So, whether living wills, authority or bank powers of attorney – creating these documents can be of vital importance. And by the way, not only towards the end of life. It may be that I am not quite seriously ill, but there is something that is preventing me from doing my business in the long term. Then it is important that there is someone I trust who can handle communication with offices, authorities or insurance companies and who can do the banking. My tip: when it comes to money or material assets, you should also regulate how extensive the third person's access to your own finances can be. And what happens if there is no disposition or power of attorney? Then the legal regulations and the doctor's work order take effect. Without a written formulation, relatives, life partners or friends can give indications as to what the patient would have wanted. Nevertheless, the final decision rests with the attending physician. Yet with some documents such as a patient’s will, that can all be avoided. Interview and photo: Bernd Müller CHECK OST #2 47

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