Living Will

A written document that allows a patient to give explicit instructions about medical treatment to be administered when the patient is terminally ill or permanently unconscious; also called an advance directive.

Advance directives

Advance directives are legal documents by which individuals express their wishes in case they ever become incapable of making health care decisions for themselves. There are two types:

  • the Living Will (also called a Directive to Physicians)
  • and the Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care (DPAHC).

The laws governing these documents permit the withholding or withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment, including food and fluids, even when the intent is to directly cause death.

A Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care document is a better option. In a DPAHC you specifically name a trusted family member or friend (“agent”) to make decisions for you if you are unable, either temporarily or permanently, to do so for yourself. Your agent will endeavor to make decisions in accord with your personal values and wishes. Your agent will make medical decisions based on your actual condition and treatment options, not guesswork.

The wording of a DPAHC is critically important. Also, it must comply with the laws in your state. It is recommended you execute a state-specific Protective Medical Decisions Document (PMDD) formulated by the Patients Rights Council (see links for their website). The PMDD gives your “agent” the authority to act on your behalf and take legal action, if necessary, to ensure your rights are protected. The PMDD clearly states your “agent” does not have the authority to approve the direct and intentional ending of your life. This limitation not only protects you, but also protects your “agent” from being subjected to pressure to authorize such actions.

National Right to Life has put together a document titeled "Will to Live" which is a pro-life version of the "Living Will".