Specific Situations

Specific Situations

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.
  • Introduction to Living Wills
    Modern life support systems can keep an individual's body alive for years, even if that person has no brain activity or is in constant pain. As competent adults, we have a constitutional right to make decisions about whether or not we want life support to continue when death is imminent or when a...
    read more
  • Definition of a Living Will
    A living will is a document that outlines specific medical instructions to be applied if you are alive but are unable to communicate your wishes for yourself. Unlike last wills, they have nothing to do with property division after your death. Rather, they state that you do (or do not) want...
    read more
  • Healthcare Power of Attorney
    A healthcare agent is a person whom you are trusting to make medical decisions on your behalf if you can't make them for yourself. Choosing your agent is an important decision, and you should think carefully about who you want to assume this responsibility. This person may one day be deciding...
    read more
  • Revoking or Canceling a Living Will
    A living will can be canceled or revoked at any time. The revocation is effective when you (or someone else who witnessed your revocation) communicate it to your attending physician or healthcare provider. You can also cancel your living will by destroying it or by indicating, in writing, that it...
    read more
  • Witnesses to a Living Will
    Because of the gravity of the decisions associated with a living will and the potential severity of the results, a living will must be witnessed by individuals who can swear that the document reflects the maker's wishes. These witnesses must be independent, and can't have an interest in receiving...
    read more
  • Pregnancy and Living Wills
    Most state laws will not let you (or someone acting on your behalf) refuse life-extending medical procedures if you are pregnant. In such cases, your living will can be disregarded, unless there is no chance the fetus will survive.    
    read more