They sound good, but ...
Living Wills are Unnecessary and Dangerous for
Patients, Doctors and Society
Living Wills are documents being promoted as
necessary to provide assurance that people will die
peacefully and with dignity. There is an intense
lobbying effort to make them legally binding. But
Living Wills can be harmful rather than helpful.
Learn the facts before you sign a Living Will or
support laws making Living Wills legally binding
What is a Living Will?
- A Living Will is a document by which a person can
give in advance a directive to have life-sustaining
medical treatment withheld or discontinued at the
time of future serious illness or injury should he or
she be unable then to make medical decisions.
- Living Will language is deceptive. Simple wordings appear harmless until
the meanings of the
words are analyzed. Words such as "artificial means," "reasonable expectation
of recovery," "relatively short time," "heroic measures" and
"terminal" are open to a variety of interpretations.
Many of the meanings that could be construed from these words may be contrary
to the intent of the Living Will signer.
- Also, there may be more provisions to a Living Will
than the simple declaration which is signed by the individual.
Why are Legally Binding Living Wills Unnecessary?
- People already have the right to make informed
consent decisions telling their family and physicians how they want to be
treated if and when they can no longer make decisions for themselves.
- Doctors are already free to withhold or withdraw useless procedures in
terminal cases that provide no benefit to the patient. Some people fear that
medical technology will be used to torture them in
their final days. But it is more likely that the "medical heroics" people fear
are the very treatments that will make possible a more comfortable,
less painful death.
- Doctors do not need Living Will laws to be protected from malpractice
suits. However, if Living Wills are legally binding an attending
physician who fails to comply could be sued or prosecuted.
Why are Legally Binding Living Wills Dangerous for Patients, Doctors, and
Should Every Treatment be Applied to Every Patient in Every
No, of course not. Neither present law nor the moral position of any church nor
any right-to-life organization requires that every form of treatment
be applied to every patient in every circumstance.
If a patient is imminently dying, it is both good medicine and good morals to
withdraw useless treatment that would only prolong the dying
process with no benefit to the patient.
But, there is an alarming trend to define food and water as "medical
treatments" which can be considered optional for a given patient rather than
ordinary care to which all are entitled.
- Today patients are in more danger of under-treatment
than overtreatment, especially dependent persons in institutionalized
situations. There are now major financial incentives for health care
providers to undertreat patients.
- Living Wills weigh the law in favor of death rather
than life. They do not give the patient the power to direct that he or she be
given life saving treatment or even food and water.
- Presently there is a rapidly-growing trend to withdraw beneficial medical
treatment and food and water from incompetent and even non-terminal
patients. What is needed is protection for persons, rather than legislation
authorizing their death by starvation and dehydration.
The concept of the Living Will originated with organizations such as Concern
for Dying (formerly known as the Euthanasia Education Council), the Society
for the Right to Die (formerly known as the Euthanasia Society of America),
and the Hemlock Society.
The strategy of these groups is to use Living Wills to condition public
acceptance of assisted suicide, mercy killing, and legalized euthanasia. This
has happened in the attempted referendum in California in 1988, that failed
due to lack of sufficient signatures.
forces are abroad in this land as never before ... the euthanasia
movement is assuming the proportions of a juggernaut."
Dr. C. Everett Koop|
United States Surgeon General
1 "Uniform Rights of the Terminally Ill Act" adopted by the National
Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws, August, 1985.
Posted 6 Sep 2000.
Original flyer Copyright 1993 by Cincinnati Right to Life.
This version Copyright 1996 by Ohio Right to Life.
Some material adapted from a flyer by MCCL.
Contact Pregnant Pause