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<<My mother was recently in the hospital and I gave her living will and power of attorney for healthcare to the nurses to put with her record. After leaving, the hospital says I cannot have the original, notarized, will returned to me. They say it is now their property. Is this legal?>>

Once a document has been offered to be part of a medical record, it is legally part of that record and cannot be removed. However, more important than offering the original of a living will to nurses on a hospital admission is an important prior step to review the salient facts with the attending physician. A living will is not a legally binding medical order. It is an indication of the patient's wishes. Many or most "living wills" are offered to clients by attorneys who neither explain nor are competent to explain the medical implications that the patient has signed for (i. e. what does it physically mean to be removed from a ventilator after it has been started). Before a living will takes on the effect of a medical order, the attending physician must translate any important components (such as do not resuscitate) into a medical order. The best first step is to take time during a "well person" visit to review your living will with your attending physician.
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