Getting Around

Living Wills FAQ

Today, more than ever, issues concerning "death with dignity" or the "right to die" have received increased attention. As advances in medical and scientific techniques find new ways to maintain bodily functions, keeping the human machine alive, more people have become concerned with "quality of life" issues, in contrast to simple continued existence.

Issues concerning the use of "heroic measures" to sustain life, and quality of life issues, are very personal and very important to consider. We recommend that you and your family discuss these issues to avoid the uncertainty that could arise at a difficult time during a serious, prolonged illness.

Today, most states have statutes specifying documents which anyone can copy and sign according to state law for a living will and medical power of attorney. The state law also provides that you can name someone to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so yourself. This is done through a medical power of attorney.

You may obtain additional information regarding your state laws, or about this issue, by contacting:

Choice In Dying, Inc.
1035 30th Street
Washington, DC 20007
1-800-989-WILL(9455)

What is a living will?

A living will is a relatively new legal document which has been made necessary by the advent of recent technological advances in the field of medicine which can allow for the continued existence of a person on advanced "life support" systems long after any normal semblance of "life," as many people consider it, has ceased.

How does the living will work?

A living will provides a written declaration for an individual to make known his or her decisions on life-prolonging procedures. It declares your wishes not to be kept alive by artificial or mechanical means if you Lire suffering from a terminal condition and your death would be imminent without the use of such artificial means. It provides a set of instructions regarding your wishes about this important matter.

Can anyone make a living will?

You must be at least 19 years of age and you must be of "sound mind" and able to comprehend the nature of your action in signing such a document.

How does the living will become a valid legal document?

You should assemble three witnesses and a Notary Public to witness Your signature. These witnesses should have no connection with you from a health care or beneficiary standpoint. In front of all of the witnesses and Notary Public you should state:

"This is my living will which I am about to sign. I ask that each of you witness my signature." After you and all witnesses have signed the document, the final step is for the Notary Public to sign in the space indicated. When this step is completed, your living will is a valid legal document.

Who should have a copy of my Living Will?

Make several copies of your living will. If appropriate, deliver a copy to your physician to have placed in your medical records file. You may also desire to give a copy to the person you have chosen as the executor of your will, a copy to your clergy, and a copy to your spouse or other trusted relative.