living will

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living will

living will or advance health care directive, legal document in which a person expresses in advance his or her wishes concerning the use of artificial life support and other medical treatment should the person be unable to communicate such wishes due the effects of illness, injury, or another cause of incapacity. A living will usually goes into effect only when two physicians certify that a patient is unable to make medical decisions and that the patient's medical circumstances are within the guidelines specified by the state's living-will law. Typically, living wills are used to direct loved ones and doctors to follow a specific course of treatment and care, such as discontinuing life-sustaining measures such as intravenous feeding, mechanical respirators, or cardiopulmonary resuscitation that the patient would reject were he or she able. Without clear and convincing evidence of a person's wishes (such as a living will), life support may be continued indefinitely because of hospital policies, fear of liability, or a doctor's moral beliefs, even if the family believes the patient's wishes would be otherwise. Living wills are often used in conjunction with a health-care proxy, which authorizes a previously chosen person to make health-care decisions in the event of incapacity. Most states and many countries have legislation authorizing living wills. See also euthanasia.

Bibliography

See publications of Choice in Dying.

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living will

a document stating that if its author becomes terminally ill, his or her life should not be prolonged by artificial means, such as a life-support machine
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
The real-world uptake of PADs has been limited, despite the impetus of the PSDA, PAD legislation in 25 states, and the fact that all states allow advance statements for mental health in their health care decisions laws.
The BMA's new Code of Practice, while recognizing that health professionals may on occasion be legally liable if they disregard an instruction refusing treatment, nevertheless holds firmly to the view that the interests of both patients and professionals are best served by legally nonbinding dialogue (advance statements) rather than by enforceable directives.
Furthermore, health boards and local authorities should jointly promote the use and benefits of advance statements or advance directives, where appropriate, to help clarify the role of a carer when a person become unwell.