A Living Will is a legal document in which a person specifies what actions should be taken for their health if they are no longer able to make decisions for themselves because of illness or incapacity. It is similar in nature to power of attorney.

Here are some questions you may ask yourself when planning your Living Will:

  • How important is it for me to be independent and self-sufficient?
  • What circumstances might cause me to feel that life is no longer worth living?
  • Do I want medical treatment only if a cure is available?
  • Do I want medical treatment to extend my life under any situation?

The written legal document spells out medical treatments you would or would not want to be used to keep you alive. It also details your preferences for other medical decisions, such as organ donation or pain management.

There are a number of end-of-life situations that you will want to consider when drawing up a Living Will:

  • Mechanical ventilation takes over your breathing if you are unable to breathe on your own.
  • CPR restarts the heart when it has stopped beating.
  • Tube feeding if you are unable to eat.
  • Dialysis removes waste from your blood and manages fluid levels if your kidneys no longer work.
  • Antibiotics and anti-virals can be used to manage and treat many infections. Do you want to use these if you are near the end of life?
  • Comfort, or palliative care includes any number of interventions that may be used to keep you comfortable and manage pain while abiding by your other treatment wishes.

You do not have to have a Living Will to have Do Not Resuscitate or Do Not Intubate orders. You will want to talk to your physician about both of these. It is a good idea to establish DNR or DNI orders each time you are admitted to a new hospital or health care facility.

If you have legal questions, please consult our Online Legal Directory to find an attorney in your area.


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