Frequently Asked Questions About The “Will to Live”
What is the Will to Live?
The Will to Live is a legal document that you can sign which:1)
to make health care decisions for you (your "health care agent") if
you develop a condition that makes it impossible for you to speak for yourself
(become "incompetent"), and 2) makes clear (in the form of written
instructions to your health care agent) what medical treatment you would want
if you can no longer speak for yourself.
Why Should I Sign a Will to Live?
To lessen the real and growing danger that you may be starved or denied necessary
medical treatment when you cannot speak for yourself. It used to be that
most doctors, believing in the Hippocratic Oath, generally saw their purpose
as saving life. Today, however, many doctors accept a "quality of life" ethic.
If they believe someone will have disabilities that make that person's life
have too poor a quality, they will do everything they can to deny life-saving
treatment and even food and water so the person will die. Today, also, the
courts and laws of most states, instead of recognizing a presumption for
life, have in effect created a presumption for death for people who cannot
speak for themselves when they have significant disabilities. By signing
a Will to Live you help to protect your own life by making clear that you
would want food and water and would want life-saving treatment except in
the circumstances you yourself specify.
But I wouldn't want a lot of machines to keep me alive, just prolonging
the dying process.
The Will to Live will protect you from being denied life-saving medical treatment
(and even food and water) in these circumstances. At the same time, the "Will
to Live" would allow you, if you wish, to reject treatment that would
just prolong your life briefly if you are about to die. It allows you to state
exactly what you would not want.
Is there really much danger that I won't get treatment I would
In almost all states the law, as established by the
courts or the legislature, allows someone else to cut off your
as well as "artificially" provided food and water, if
you cannot speak for yourself and have left no clear expression
of your wishes.
But I trust my own doctor. Why do I need a Will to Live?
Without a Will to Live, if you become "incompetent," no
longer able to speak for yourself, even if your doctor knew your
wishes he/she could be
overruled by a relative. Remember, also, that you never know whether the doctor
you trust will be the one treating you when the decisions about treatment are
made. Usually, the doctors treating you when the decision is made will be specialists,
not your regular family doctor. You could be on a trip, and have to be rushed
to an unfamiliar emergency room. Your own doctor could be on vacation. And
since this document might not be used until years from now, by that time the
doctor you know and trust may have retired or moved away. A Will to Live will
help protect you, whoever the doctor treating you may be.
I trust my own family. Do I really need a Will to Live if I can
depend on them to make health care decisions I would want?
Having a Will to Live that specifically designates someone you trust to make
health care decisions for you, and going on clearly to describe the treatment
you want ensured, will greatly strengthen the hands of those who battle to
save your life when you are not able to speak for yourself.
Why should my Will to Live name a "health care agent?" Isn't
it enough just to put down my wishes for treatment?
The unfortunate fact is that when you cannot defend your own rights, it is
relatively easy for medical personnel to ignore directions you have put down
on paper unless there is somebody with the authority and willingness to fight
to make sure your wishes are followed. By naming someone you trust to be your "health
care agent" when you cannot speak for yourself, you increase the chance
that your wish for treatment, food and water will be followed. Both parts are
important: You should name somebody as your health care agent, to make it more
likely your written wishes will be followed. And you should put down your written
wishes, to make it more likely your agent's statements about what you would
have wanted are not questioned and challenged. The Will to Live provides for
What if the person I name as my health care agent isn't available
The person you name as your health care agent may be on a trip when decisions
have to be made. Or--if, for example, you have named your spouse--the agent
might be in the same accident that causes your own disability. That is why
the Will to Live allows you to name alternate agents to serve if the primary
person you name is unable or unwilling to serve.
Where can I get the Will to Live?
A Will to Life document has been prepared for each state to comply with the
differing requirements of each state's laws, such as the number of witnesses
required, with the help of an attorney licensed to practice in that state.
You can obtain a copy of the Will to Live form from Arkansas Right to Life.
Or you can use the Internet. If you don’t have Internet access, you
can get access for free at most public libraries. If you’re uncomfortable
using a computer, ask a relative or friend to do it for you. Download
the current Will To Live form here (revised 2005) .
Finally, tell your family and physicians that you have a Will to Live.