Basics Of A Living Will

Living Will document with pen, closeup

A living will is a legal document wherein you outline your wishes for medical care in the event you are incapacitated and unable to make known your wishes with regard to your medical treatments.

Often you will designate the person who is authorized to make health care decisions for you when you unable to handle these decisions yourself.  This person then has what is known as a power of attorney for health care.

With the living will you determine whether or not you want your life prolonged by artificial means.  Combining this with the appointment of someone else to have the power to make your health care decisions for you is referred to as an advanced health care directive, or simply an advance directive or health care directive or physician directive.

If you are hospitalized the hospital staff will likely ask if you have an advance directive in place and then request a copy of it.  Some hospitals have forms on hand which you can complete.  However, these may or may not be compatible with your own wishes.


There are many forms available from various sources online which you can use to complete an advance directive.  Of course, you can consult your attorney to establish your living will and your designation of someone to have your power of attorney to make health care decisions for you.  Do not confuse the health care power of attorney with a general power of attorney.  This designation of power of attorney for health care is specific to health care issues only and not to any other aspects of your life.

Under an advance directive you can outline whether or not you want to be resuscitated if your heartbeat stops or if you stop breathing.  Do you want the medical staff to treat you with dialysis or use breathing machines?  Should you be fed through a tube or should you simply be provided water or fluids?  Do you want to donate your organs or tissue?

Do you want the same instructions to apply whether you have been diagnosed as terminal or whether you have been diagnosed as being permanently unconscious.

The living will does not come into play until you are no longer able to decide and transmit your wishes with regard to your medical treatment.

It is prudent for every adult to have a living will in place.  No one knows when misfortune may befall them and they will no longer be  capable of deciding their health care treatments for themselves.

The living will give the person who will have to make these decisions for you regarding your health care and the medical staff a guide to the treatments you want to receive and those treatments you wish to avoid.