Anyone of sound mental health is entitled at age 18 or older to draw up a living will specifying the medical procedures they would like to be taken if they experience an injury or illness that leads to a terminal condition. Illinois’ department of health provides sample forms that you can model a living will on but does not require you to make use of it.
A living will can easily be drawn up without the help of an attorney. It goes into effect when only when your condition cannot be reversed, you are incapable of making your wishes known and the only thing thing keeping you alive is intravenous nutrition. Two doctors must agree that your condition is irreversible and incurable before the living will’s provisions will go into effect.
To be legally valid, a living will must be signed in the presence of two witnesses who must also provide their signatures. Any health care professional you are working with cannot be one of your witnesses. These witnesses will affirm that you have signed the document of your own will and are of sound mind.
You can go into as much detail as you feel is necessary. Women who are pregnant with a fetus that is still viable cannot be withdrawn from life support. There are many different kinds of life-sustaining treatments, meaning anything which keeps you alive without actually providing hope of a cure. These measures can include:
• Artificial respiration
• Intravenous food or liquid
You can detail which of these can be continued and their duration. Some people may wish to specify that certain measures should be sustained for a certain period of time before being withdrawn. Other people may wish to state in their living will that they want their lives to be prolonged as long as possible, even if their condition is terminal.
In addition to detailing these, you should also specify:
• Which treatments and procedures you would find too burdensome and would not consent to
• Any religious wishes you have as to how your condition should be handled
• Whether you wish to make a so-called “anatomical gift” of any of your organs
You are free to include any general statements within the body of a living will that will clarify your thoughts.
After a living will has been drawn up, it is the responsibility of the person to whom it applies to inform their physician of its existence. It is advisable to present your doctor or a relative with a copy that can be consulted in case of emergency.
Living wills can be revoked at any time, provided you are still in good mental health. You may destroy all copies or orally revoke the conditions of the living will. If you decide to amend the conditions or create a new living will, try to make sure there are no other copies that may cause confusion.