Originally, living will forms were merely statements that a person did not want life-prolonging procedures if he or she became terminally ill or injured. All that was needed was for the person to fill in his or her name, then sign and date the form. Sometimes the form was also signed by witnesses, and sometimes it was notarized. Some of the living will forms approved by state legislatures are still of this simple nature.
Over the years, it became apparent that people were often facing complicated situations, and living wills were developed to cover a wider range of possibilities. Many states now allow you to make choices on matters such as:
- including coverage for a persistent vegetative state, even if your condition is not terminal;
- specifying which medical procedures you do or do not want;
- determining the use of artificial nutrition and hydration (i.e., the use of gastric tubes and intravenous feeding);
- stating that you do want life-prolonging procedures; and
- having spaces for you to write in any other specific instructions or wishes regarding your medical treatment.