How Living Wills Work

A Living Will allows you to state whether you want your life prolonged in the event that you are suffering from a terminal illness, or are in a permanent state of unconsciousness. Your Living Will indicates whether you want certain treatments withheld or withdrawn if their function is only to prolong the dying process or to keep you ‘alive’ where there is no realistic hope of recovery.


For example, if you suffer serious brain damage in an accident, or suffer an incapacitating stroke, you may be permanently unconscious and unable to communicate your wishes to your doctor. In this case, a Living Will lets your doctor know the kinds of medical procedures and treatments you are (a) willing to accept and (b) not willing to accept.


In understanding how Living Wills work in practice, it’s important that you realize that Living Wills only come into effect when you are:

  1. suffering from a terminal condition, a persistent comatose condition or in a permanent vegetative state;

  2. there is no real prospect of recovery; and

  3. unable to make and communicate your own healthcare decisions.


It is only at this point will the person nominated under your Living Will have any ability to enforce or revoke any of the instructions that you have set out in your Living Will. However, before this person can lawfully act, the law in the majority of states and indeed the terms of most Living Wills require that one or in some cases two doctors must first personally examine you and agree that you satisfy the conditions referred to above and that the application of medical procedures would only prolong the dying process. If the doctor or doctors agree that this is the case, then the medical procedures may be withdrawn or applied, depending on the choices expressed in your Living Will.


For more information on Living Wills, read some of the other Living Will articles on this website.



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Related Articles


Living Will Planning for Incapacity – Advance Healthcare Directives


Living Will What is a Living Will?


Living Will Who Can Create a Living Will?


Living Will Do I Need a Lawyer to Make a Living Will?


Living Will Why Should I Make a Living Will?


Living Will What Happens if I Don’t Make a Living Will?




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