A living will is a document specifying what medical steps you would like to be taken if you become terminally ill or injured and are unable to express yourself . In California, this kind of document is known as an “advance health directive.” The California attorney general’s office has prepared a form that anyone can download and fill out without the help of an attorney.
The first section concerns appointing an agent who can make health care decisions on your behalf. The second section is the actual living will component, labeled “instructions for health care.” You can fill out one or both sections depending on your wishes. The form can also be customized in any way you see fit. You are free to strike out any words or phrases you do not wish to have apply to you.
In the second section, you are offered two broad options. The first option outlines the many conditions under which you may request that your life not be prolonged:
• If the risk or burden of treatment is greater than any potential benefit
• If you are unconscious and are not expected to regain consciousness
• If you are terminally ill and are expected to die soon
Alternately, you may choose to request that your life be prolonged as much as possible, even if your condition cannot be reversed.
Because this wording is so broad and do not cover all of the complications, you are free to specify in any way you wish which treatments you would not want applied, such as:
• Intravenous food or liquid
• Artificial respiration
• Any form of life support that prolongs life without offering the hope of recovery
Additionally, you may want to specify any number of other issues, such as:
• What you consider an acceptable quality of life and what kind of threshold must be crossed before you wish to be taken off life support
• Your religious beliefs and any ceremonies that should be performed during the end of life
• Treatments you do not want applied because they would be too difficult to undergo
Below this, there is a section to complete regarding becoming an organ donor after death. You may choose to make any body parts available to those to need them, only selected organs or none at all. You may also specify what these organs can be used for, such as:
• Organ transplants
• Medical school use
The signature of two witnesses is required. At least one of these witnesses must not be related in any way or stand to inherit anything, and neither can be the provider of any health care for the person creating the document. Alternately, a notary public may provide a signature. Nursing home residents must obtain the additional signature of an ombudsman. The document may be revoked at any time, either by destroying the document or orally requesting that it be disregarded.