Heinz Hoenig is seriously ill in the hospital. With a living will, he authorized his wife Annika Kärsten-Hoenig to make decisions about his life. With seven tips you can also guarantee that doctors will act according to your wishes in an emergency.

Heinz Hoenig’s serious illness became known almost a week ago: According to media reports, a bacterial infection damaged a stent in his heart. After surgery, doctors put the actor in a coma. His wife, to whom Hoenig had issued a living will, woke him up to discuss what to do next: Hoenig’s aorta needed to be replaced. There is also a hole in the esophagus. High-risk operations with long follow-up treatments that Annika Kärsten-Hoenig did not want to decide on alone, even though she was legally allowed to do so. Hoenig is now approachable and, according to media reports, is happy about his wife’s actions.

There are a few pitfalls lurking on the way to a living will that implements your wishes in an emergency. With these questions and answers you can prepare yourself well:

The living will legally determines how a person would like to be treated in an emergency and which medical measures they refuse. The decree applies in every situation; So, for example, in very advanced dementia or in vegetative state patients.

The document creates clarity: relatives do not have to discuss how they should make decisions for a patient in certain medical situations. Instead, doctors and courts are bound by the content of a legally binding order. From a legal perspective, this is a declaration of intent; it can be written by legally competent adults.

The order should cover situations in which independent decisions and expression of will are no longer possible. This applies, for example, to the dying process, brain damage, coma, dementia or an incurable illness in its final stages.

Questions that need to be clarified include: When should severe pain be relieved or resuscitation measures taken? When should artificial nutrition or artificial ventilation be stopped? A person should also be named who will discuss the order with the medical staff.

It is practically impossible to plan for every eventuality. It therefore makes sense to expand the living will to include personal motivation, morals, religious views or experiences from family and friends. This can be attached to the order and, in case of doubt, help to assess the patient’s wishes.

Doctors and lawyers can help to describe as specifically as possible the situations in which the living will should apply and what treatment wishes patients have.

In order for doctors to recognize that what is written really corresponds to the patient’s wishes, the date and signature under the text are important. The consumer advice center recommends checking the text regularly and adding a new signature and date. It is also possible to add something by hand.

In principle, a living will remains valid without any time restrictions. However, it is advisable to renew or confirm them at certain intervals (e.g. annually).

In principle, a living will is binding for doctors. If they act against a patient’s will, they violate his right to self-determination and therefore his human dignity.

Nevertheless, in practice several points must be taken into account. In an emergency, patients are generally treated first by medical and medical staff. Preserving their lives is our top priority. In addition, the existence of a living will must also be known to those involved.

It may therefore be the case that doctors use a living will late in an emergency. If patients are already undergoing inpatient or outpatient treatment and the people treating them are aware of their legally clear living will, the case is different and clear.

To make it easier for partners and trusted people to find the directive, experts recommend designating a central location for all important documents, such as a file folder. The emergency data record of the electronic health card can also record whether and where the power of attorney and living will are available.

Smartphone users can also write down these instructions on their cell phone. Operating systems like Android and iOS offer a kind of emergency pass. On it you can find: information about illnesses, blood group, allergies, an emergency contact to be alerted as well as personal additions to powers of attorney and living wills. On iOS the “Health” app is used for this purpose, on Android the “Emergency Information” app is used. All information can be displayed in the locked state.

The Central Pension Register, which the Federal Chamber of Notaries maintains on behalf of the legislature, also offers an opportunity to record the most important information about pension documents. Powers of attorney, care directives and living wills can be registered here for a one-off fee and stored for life. In addition, objections to the emergency spouse representation right can be registered. A plastic card in credit card format documents the registration, and the names of the people you trust are entered on the back.

The consumer advice centers offer a similar emergency card in credit card format for your wallet in their service centers. Here you can tick which orders are available. Two emergency contacts can also be specified.

A visit to the notary is not absolutely necessary for a living will. The NRW consumer advice center points this out. The only important thing is to inform relatives that there is a document and where it is stored.

For some time now, the Maltesers have set up an online assistant for filling out a living will. This guides those interested step by step through the Maltese living will form and provides important medical, legal and ethical information in various sections. The total duration of the 26 information videos is almost 100 minutes.