Advance Directive / Living Will

Advance Directive

What is an advance directive?

An advance directive is a means to direct health care that you may need in the future by stating your choices in a written document. A living will is an advance directive that helps you make legally valid decisions about future medical treatment. Having this document affords you the opportunity to be specific about medical treatment you wish in the future. Federal law requires that you be told of your right to make an advance directive when you are admitted to a health care facility.

Living Will

What is a living will?

A living will is a written declaration, which is voluntarily signed by and individual who is called a declarant. It is a document in which you specify the type of life sustaining medical care you desire if you are terminally ill, or unable to make decisions for yourself. The living will instructs the physician to withhold or withdraw life-sustaining procedures in case the declarant is in a terminal condition and unable to communicate his or her wishes that death-delaying procedures utilized to prolong life.

How do you execute a living will?

To be legally valid, the living will needs to be signed, dated, and witnessed by two individuals. Your personal physician is not an appropriate witness. Witnesses should be individuals who are known to the declarant, not related, and are not potential heirs to the estate.

Sharing Your Living Will

Your living will should be communicated and presented to your physician, family members, and other appropriate individuals. Make certain that your living will be made part of your permanent medical record.

Canceling Your Living Will

Your living will can be changed or canceled at any time. While you can verbally cancel a living will, it is best to write out the changes or a cancellation. The written cancellation or changes should be signed, dated, and witnessed. Once completed it should be communicated and presented to your physician, family members, and other appropriate individuals.

What is a death-delaying procedure?

death-delaying procedure refers to any medical procedure or intervention that, when applied to a patient, in the judgment of the attending physician would serve only to postpone the moment of death. Withdrawal of food and water cannot be done if it would be the only cause of death. You may write specific directions about the death delaying procedures you do or do not want. If you are pregnant and doctors feel you could have a live birth, your living will cannot go into effect.Save the bumblebees


Putnick, J. (Reviewed 2017). Advanced directives and living wills. Raleigh, NC: Workplace Options.

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