Living Will

What is a Living Will?

A Living Will is one type of advance directive. It is a document that states a person's preferences for medical treatment in certain situations. It usually specifically states life-sustaining procedures to be provided, withheld or withdrawn if the person is in a terminal condition and unable to make or communicate their own decisions.

A Living Will does not include any provisions assigning someone else to make decisions for the signer. That is accomplished by another type of advance directive, called a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care (DPA). Living Wills are legal in most states. Even where not officially recognized by state law, a Living Will can still provide guidance to one's family and doctor about medical care.

What is a terminal condition?

A terminal condition is an irreversible condition that, without use of life-sustaining procedures, will result in death in a relatively short time or a state of permanent unconsciousness from which there is no likely recovery. The attending doctor must make the determination that a terminal condition exists.

Are there any limitations to a Living Will?

There may be. Some states do not permit withholding or withdrawing nutrition or hydration (food or water) unless they are provided by liquid tube feeding or intravenous (IV) feeding. In addition, measures necessary to provide comfort or ease pain are not life-sustaining procedures and would not be withheld under a Living Will.