The technical name for a living will is an "Advance Directive". This covers a number of different types of ‘directives’ made by a person to express their decision in advance about medical treatment in the event of becoming incapable of making a decision about the treatment they should or should not have in certain specified circumstances.
Anyone over the age of 18 can make an Advance Directive and it is a legally binding document. It should be in writing and signed in the presence of at least one independent witness, who should not benefit from your estate under your Will or the intestacy rules (if you have not made a Will).
It would be best to discuss what you want in an Advance Directive with your family or close friends so that they are aware of your thinking on the matter and once you have signed off the Advance Directive then a copy should be lodged with a relevant family member or close friend. Further, a copy should be lodged with your doctor.
You should consider the circumstances in which the Advance Directive is to operate. This is the "triggering event" and is normally in two parts. The first part defines when the document should operate and the second part in what circumstances it will operate. Once the triggering event has occurred and the Advance Directive is in operation the document must then express clearly the treatment that is being refused and although this does not have to be in medical language it should be as precise as possible. This should be carefully drafted in the document itself.
Other wishes and statements can be included in the Advance Directive document which may be important to you in the context of your health care, so that the doctors know your preferences.
In addition to an Advance Directive you can also make a 'Health and Welfare' Lasting Power of Attorney which enables someone you appoint as your attorney to deal with a number of aspects concerning your future health and wellbeing once you lose mental capacity. Such a Lasting Power of Attorney can also authorise the attorney to give or refuse consent to life sustaining treatment. Under such a document it is the attorney you appoint who makes the decision about life sustaining treatment. Therefore if you care about issues of refusal of life sustaining treatment you should consider making either a Living Will or a Health and Welfare Lasting Power of Attorney - and you can make both.
We can assist you with the preparation of an Advance Directive (Living Will) in the proper form.