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What is a living will?

A living will is a legal document which lists the specific types of life-sustaining medical treatment you do (or do not) want to use if you have a terminal illness or are in a permanent coma. For example do you want to be hooked up to a machine to keep you alive artificially or do you want to die naturally with only palliative (comfort) care such as pain medication?

Is a living will the same as a last will and testament?


No. A Last Will and Testament is a legal document that expresses what you want done with your assets (real property, personal property, money, vehicles, etc.) after your death.  A living will sets out what medical treatment you want when you are dying.

Is a living will the same as a DNR (do not resuscitate) or DNI (do not intubate)?

No, they are two separate documents.  A DNR or DNI order is a separate document that is signed by your doctor and placed in your medical records. A living will may allow you to be resuscitated while a DNR or DNI may prevent  resuscitation

Do I really need a living will?


A living will often avoids family conflict when you have made these major decisions known prior to you to your death. A living will also makes it easier for your loved ones to follow your wishes.  For example, have not signed a living will, your family may feel they are “killing” you by refusing to place you on life support.  If you have already made your preferences known, it removes much guilt from the family when making these decisions.


Do I have to have a lawyer make a living will?


No. However, you should consult an attorney if you have questions about the living will. Many attorneys have free consultations where you can ask any questions without charge.


Can I use a living will obtained from the Internet or in an office supply store?


Generally, the answer is “no.”  Living will forms obtained online and in office supply stores are “general forms” and may not address all possible end-of-life care decisions.   For example, some living wills have instructions regarding cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), mechanical ventilation , tube feeding via a tube in the stomach , dialysis , antibiotics or antiviral medications, comfort (palliative) care and organ/tissue donations

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