Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Living Will Definition:

A document that sets out guidelines for dealing with life-sustaining medical procedures in the eventuality of the signatory's sudden debilitation and inability to communicate those preferences.

Related Terms: Heroic Measures, Permanent Unconscious Condition, Terminal Condition

A living will is a written statement in which a person expresses her treatment preferences in the event of future illness or accident.1

The Appellate Court of Illinois, in a 1992 case In Re CA, wrote:

"A living will allows a person to execute a document that expresses his desire not to be kept alive through artificial or extraordinary means if in the future he suffers a terminal condition."

end of life word cloud

Living wills would, for example, inform medical staff not to provide extraordinary life-preserving procedures on their bodies if they are at that time unable or incapable of expressing themselves and suffering from a terminal condition or a permanent unconscious condition.

For the most part, the term living will is a misnomer, as a will does not by definition take effect until the signatory's death whereas a living will is useless after the signatory's death.


  • testament de vie; or
  • testament euthanasique.


  • NOTE 1: Yuen, Michele, Letting Daddy Die: Adopting New Standards for Surrogate Decisionmaking, 39 UCLA L. Rev. 581 at page 594 (1991-1992)
  • In Re C. A.,603 NE 2d 1171, footnote at page 1179.

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