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ConsumerWatch: Doctor Gives Advice On Living Wills

LOS GATOS (CBS 5) -- Dean Tomich of Los Gatos grew up playing the piano alongside one of the greats. "I learned song writing from Ricky Nelson," Tomich said.

But Tomich, who is now in his 70s, is thinking about the other end of his life. "I want to die in dignity and not burden anybody," he said.

Last year, Tomich decided to amend his Living Will, a document that dictates how he wants to be cared for at the end of his days. When Tomich contacted his health insurer, Kaiser, to make the change, he said the HMO gave him the runaround.

"I emailed them, I wrote to them, I called them several times, I called their medical services department," Tomich said, all to no avail.

As a last resort, Tomich contacted CBS 5 Consumerwatch. We checked in with Dr. Wendy Anderson, a specialist in end-of-life care at UCSF Medical Center. Anderson strongly believes everyone should have a living will, also known as an Advanced Medical Directive.

"It's a gift to your family because it's going to take away some of the burden that they'll have when you're seriously ill," Anderson said.

The palliative care physician also said you can change your living will at any time. "If there is a more updated version, it will always take precedence over a previous version," Anderson told CBS 5 Consumerwatch.

But, Dean Tomich wanted to make sure Kaiser was aware of his changes and had them on file. So after more than a year of his unsuccessful attempts, Consumerwatch called Kaiser. And within a few days, the insurer followed up, and officially made the change Tomich had been requesting to his records.

Kaiser also apologized to Tomich for taking so long to respond to his inquiries. The insurer said it was a "communication issue" that it's taken steps to address.

For information on setting up a living will, visit

(© 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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