Living Will

A written document that allows a patient to give explicit instructions about medical treatment to be administered when the patient is terminally ill or permanently unconscious; also called an advance directive. It can be revoked by the patient at any time. For many the living will preserves personal control and eases the decision-making burden of a family.

If you do not have someone you want to name as your health care agent, you should consider a Living Will. For most people, it is better to have a Living Will than to have no advanced directive at all. However, a Living Will has some inherent disadvantages. These include the following:

1. There is no statute in New York that governs Living Wills. The highest court in New York has held that a Living Will is valid as long as it constitutes “clear and convincing evidence” of your wishes.

2. There is no standard form for a Living Will in New York which is interpreted in a uniform way. This means that even a well drafted Living Will is ultimately subject to interpretation by those who need to determine your wishes.

3. It is hard to draft a Living Will that provides specific instructions with regard to all possible future events. This means that inevitably, a Living Will will require those responsible for your care to interpret general instructions in your Living Will in the context of specific circumstances.