Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Health Care Reform:

Health Insurance & Affordable Care Act

Living Wills Make Life-or-Death Decisions Clearer

WebMD Health News

Schiavo Case Puts Living Wills in Spotlight

March 18, 2005 - The Terri Schiavo case is tragic whether or not you believe her feeding tube should be removed. But much of the fighting could have been avoided if she had a living will.

There is a lesson here for everyone. If you want a clear mandate on what should happen to you if you end up in Schiavo's condition, enact a living will.

Here is how to go about it.

What are advance directives?

Advance directives are legal documents in which patients express their wishes about the kind of health care they want to receive should they become unable to make their own treatment decisions. There are two types of advance directives: the living will and the power of attorney for health care. Check with an attorney to find out what is available in your state.

What is a living will?

A living will is a legal document. It states in advance a person's desire to receive, or to withhold, life-support procedures. This is put into use if someone becomes permanently unconscious or terminally ill and unable to make decisions.

When does it apply?

The living will applies only when two doctors determine that the patient is either in an irreversible coma or is suffering from a terminal illness and is unable to make decisions for him/herself. As long as a patient is able to make health care decisions, the living will cannot be used.

What treatments are covered?

The living will permits the withholding or withdrawal of any treatment that might be considered life-prolonging or that artificially extends the dying process. Some states have special provisions that allow artificial nutrition and hydration to be withheld or withdrawn when patients are in an irreversible coma.

Who can complete a living will?

Anyone over the age of 18 years who is of sound mind can complete a living will. To be legal, it must be witnessed by two adults or can be notarized.

Can a living will be revoked?

A living will can be revoked by the patient at any time and in any manner, with the patient simply tearing up the living will document, expressing orally to witnesses the desire to revoke the document, or in writing. Health care professionals who witness such revocations will document them in the medical record.

Latest Health Reform News

Loading …
URAC: Accredited Health Web Site TRUSTe online privacy certification HONcode Seal AdChoices