Health Care Directive (Living Will)
A Health Care Directive (also known as a living will, directive to physician, or physician directive) is a legal statement to all your health care providers that describes your general wishes or desires for end-of-life care. In particular, Health Care Directives speak to the question of whether and how you want to be kept alive by medical treatment if you are unable to make decisions.
Your Health Care Directive should specifically state the life-sustaining treatments you do or do not want.
These should include:
2. use of an artificial ventilator, and
3. artificial nutrition and hydration.
Remember, advance directives are only part of the process. Protecting your health care choices is a four-step process:
1. Deciding what you want;
communicating your intentions so that others understand them;
and committing your providers, family, and health care agent(s) to the acceptance (and sometimes defense) of your choices.
Let your agent know exactly what kind of care you wish to have, and what types of treatment you do and do not wish to have. Make clear to other family members that your health care agent(s) will have final authority to act on your behalf. If you feel that certain family members will not honor your wishes, you may include a statement directing physicians and the courts to disregard his or her demands and to follow only the directives of your agent(s).
For the sake of all concerned, be sure to discuss your intentions face-to-face.
3. Include it in your records
It should be in all your medical records.
When you present your Health Care Directive to your physician, ask if he or she will honor it. If not, find a physician who will. Most states do not require a specific form or format.
4. Make it legal
In Washington, the basic form available covers only terminal illness, and End of Life Washington considers it too limited. In order to make a Health Care Directive legally binding, you must sign the document in the presence of two qualified, adult witnesses.
Why have a directive?
A Health Care Directive can prevent immense family conflict about your wishes for treatment if you become unconscious or unable to make medical decisions.
The instructions contained in this document will enable you to complete and implement your End of Life Washington Advance Directive. The End of Life Washington Advance Directive combines two legal documents to protect your right to refuse medical treatment you do not want or to request treatment you do want, in the event you lose the ability to make decisions. Combining two documents into one makes it less likely that one or the other will be misplaced.