A living will, also known as a physician's directive or advanced health care directives provide legal evidence of your wishes regarding the use of life support procedures should a person have a terminal medical condition and are unable to communicate your wishes.
This document is ideally kept both with the estate plan and with the primary physician.
Living wills have guidelines indicating exactly which conditions must be met and provide a list of types of procedures not to be performed to sustain one's life. Many living wills will state two physicians must agree that death is imminent and any artificial procedures used will only prolong the dying process. The living will can also request that if a persistent vegetative state with little or no chance of regaining consciousness is reached and agreed upon by two physicians, that life-sustaining procedures are not used.
Life-sustaining procedures listed in a living will might include:
- Cardiopulmonary resuscitation
- The implantation of a cardiac pacemaker
- Renal dialysis
- Parental feeding
- The use of respirators or ventilators
- Blood transfusions
- Nasogastric tube use
- Intravenous feedings
- Endotracheal tube use
- Organ transplants
- Major surgery
Living wills typically contain a release of liability for those involved in terminating life-sustaining procedures who do so under good faith as to the wishes of the person who wrote and signed their living will.