What is a Living Will?

In addition to statutes authorizing you to appoint a healthcare agent, most states have statutes that authorize you to leave instructions concerning the specific types of treatments you do or do not want to receive. These instructions are generically known as “Living Wills,” and in some states known by their more technical legal definition, “Declarations To Physicians.”

Living Wills, in essence, are intended to provide you with a way to express in advance your desires concerning your health care treatment. They are mainly used by those who desire to authorize the withdrawal of life sustaining care if their treating physician’s medical diagnosis is that continuing healthcare is simply prolonging their life without hope of meaningful recovery. Living Wills can also be used equally well to provide instructions about the types of medical treatment the patient does not want withheld or withdrawn.

Ordinarily, Living Wills require the agreement of two physicians that the conditions you have set to withdraw care have occurred. For example, before they could “pull the plug”, two physicians would have to agree that you are suffering from a terminal condition or that you are in a “persistent vegetative state.”