Living Will

A living will is a legal document in which patients instruct health-care providers about their wishes with respect to medical procedures should they become incapacitated. The living will and the durable medical power of attorney are two federally mandated parts of what is known as advanced medical directives.

The documents reflect patients’ rights of consent and medical choice under conditions whereby patients can no longer choose for themselves what medical interventions they wish to undergo.

The document commonly includes the kinds of medical procedures that are usually administered to patients who are seriously ill. These may include:

  • Transfusions of blood and blood products
  • Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)
  • Diagnostic tests
  • Dialysis
  • Administration of drugs
  • Tissue and organ donation
  • Use of a respirator
  • Surgery

The living will declaration can also include issues of pain medication, food, and water.

The living will should be given careful thought, and be talked about with the patient’s family, physician, and care providers. It is highly recommended that discussion of patient wishes occurs before medical treatment is necessary, because the living will involves both the patient’s family and loved ones, who are expected to assist in its implementation. It should be researched for the state in which the patient is most likely to receive medical care, and be dated and signed before two witnesses.