Pre-Planning for Healthcare Decisions

Living Will is a popular term for a Healthcare Directive , a signed document that directs your healthcare providers to follow your wishes if you are unable to communicate with them at a time of impending death.

A second type of directive know as a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care is also advisable because many healthcare situations are complicated and require difficult decisions when the patient is unconscious or otherwise unable to help in the decision, This document appoints a trusted agent to make these decisions on the patient’s behalf. (Click HERE for a link to free forms from the Washington State Medical Association. The link is to an Adobe PDF file. Get the free Adobe Reader HERE)

Preparing both of these documents is the best preparation you can make to guarantee, as much as possible, that your wishes will be carried out. If you are unable to carry them with you when admitted to a hospital, the agent or other trusted person should know the location of these documents in order to show them to the doctors or hospital personnel as soon as possible after an emergency occurs. The Healthcare Directive is the most important because it serves as your final instructions to the doctors and to the agent of your Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care. It gives the agent comfort and legitimacy if the most difficult decision to terminate life support is necessary.

Preparing a Healthcare Directive

Although many Internet sites are willing to sell an interactive form of this document, Washington residents may rely on the information below to reliably create their own living will.

The document does not need to be notarized in Washington State but other states may require that it be notarized. Choice of witnesses is important because the law specifically states who may serve as witnesses (underlined below). Cut and Paste from the text below or right click HERE

(Save Target As…) for an MS Word version.

Living wills are governed by RCW Chapter 70.122.30 (Washington Health & Safety Code, commonly known as the Washington Natural Death Act)

RCW 70.122.030

Directive to withhold or withdraw life-sustaining treatment.

(1) Any adult person may execute a directive directing the
withholding or withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment in a terminal condition or permanent unconscious condition. The directive shall be signed by the declarer in the presence of two witnesses not related to the declarer by blood or marriage and who would not be entitled to any portion of the estate of the declarer upon declarer’s decease under any will of the declarer or codicil thereto then existing or, at the time of the directive, by operation of law
then existing. In addition, a witness to a directive shall not be the attending physician, an employee of the attending physician or a health facility in which the declarer is a patient, or any person who has a claim against any portion of the estate of the declarer upon declarer’s decease at the time of the execution of the directive.
The directive, or a copy thereof, shall be made part of the patient’s medical records retained by the attending physician, a copy of which shall be forwarded by the custodian of the records to the health facility when the withholding or withdrawal of life-support treatment is contemplated. The directive may be in the following form, but in addition may include
other specific directions:


Health Care Directive

Directive made this . . . . day of . . . . . . (month, year).

I . . . . . ., having the capacity to make health care decisions,
willfully, and voluntarily make known my desire that my dying shall not be artificially prolonged under the circumstances set forth below, and do hereby declare that:

(a) If at any time I should be diagnosed in writing to be in a terminal condition by the attending physician, or in a permanent unconscious condition by two physicians, and where the application of life-sustaining treatment would serve only to artificially prolong the process of my dying, I direct that such treatment be withheld or withdrawn, and that I be permitted to die naturally. I understand by using this form that a terminal condition means an incurable and irreversible condition caused by injury, disease, or illness, that would within reasonable medical judgment cause death within a reasonable period of time in accordance with accepted medical standards, and where the application of life-sustaining treatment would serve only to prolong the process of dying. I further understand in using this form that a permanent unconscious condition means an incurable and irreversible condition in which I am medically assessed within reasonable medical judgment as having no reasonable probability of recovery from an irreversible coma or a persistent vegetative state.

(b) In the absence of my ability to give directions regarding the use of such life-sustaining treatment, it is my intention that this directive shall be honored by my family and physician(s) as the final expression of my legal right to refuse medical or surgical treatment and I accept the consequences of such refusal. If another person is appointed to make these decisions for me, whether through a durable power of attorney or otherwise, I request that the person be guided
by this directive and any other clear expressions of my desires.

(c) If I am diagnosed to be in a terminal condition or in a permanent unconscious condition (check one):

I DO want to have artificially provided nutrition and hydration.

I DO NOT want to have artificially provided nutrition and hydration.

(d) If I have been diagnosed as pregnant and that diagnosis is known to my physician, this directive shall have no force or effect during the course of my pregnancy.

(e) I understand the full import of this directive and I am emotionally and mentally capable to make the health care decisions contained in this directive.

(f) I understand that before I sign this directive, I can add to or delete from or otherwise change the wording of this directive and that I may add to or delete from this directive at any time and that any changes shall be consistent with Washington state law or federal constitutional law to be legally valid.

(g) It is my wish that every part of this directive be fully implemented. If for any reason any part is held invalid it is my wish that the remainder of my directive be implemented.

Signed . . . . . . . . . . . .


City, County, and State of Residence

The declarer has been personally known to me and I believe him or her to be capable of making health care decisions.


Witness . . . . . . . . . . . .
Witness . . . . . . . . . . . .

(2) Prior to withholding or withdrawing life-sustaining treatment, the diagnosis of a terminal condition by the attending physician or the diagnosis of a permanent unconscious state by two physicians shall be entered in writing and made a permanent part of the patient’s medical records.

(3) A directive executed in another political jurisdiction is valid to the extent permitted by Washington state law and federal constitutional law.


[1992 c 98 § 3; 1979 c112 § 4.]



From Washington State Medical Association:

From Washington State Living Will Registry:

Other Provisions of the Washington State Natural Death Act

70.122 RCW

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