What is a Living Will?

It is important to understand the difference between a Living Will and Healthcare Power of Attorney.

A Living Will is a document that allows you to establish – in advance – the type of medical care you would want to receive if you were to become permanently unconscious or terminally ill and unable to tell your physician or family what type of life-sustaining care you want to receive. A Living Will also allows you to specify your wishes about organ or tissue donation.

You do not need a physician to complete a Living Will. You can complete the forms on your own. The most important step, however, is to be sure your family understands your wishes and has a copy of your Living Will so they can access it in the event you cannot speak for yourself.

Unlike a Healthcare Power of Attorney, which designates an individual to make medical decisions on your behalf at any time in your life that you become incapacitated, a Living Will is only used at the end of life.  Before your Living Will can be implemented, you must be:

  1. Terminally ill and unable to tell your physician your wishes about healthcare treatments.
  2. Permanently unconscious – two physicians must decide that you have no reasonable possibility of regaining consciousness (one physician must be a medical specialist in an appropriate field).

Regardless of your condition, if you are able to speak and tell your physician your wishes about life-prolonging treatment, your Living Will cannot be used.

Download a Living Will form and be sure to share it with your family and physician once you have completed it.

Complete your Living Will to make your wishes known.