My Living Will

Key Concept

How do you want to die? If you don’t specify the details, the decision will be made for you by the medical system and you are most likely going to die in Intensive Care – a fate not to be wished upon anyone!


This module encourages you to prepare a Living Will – a document that specifies how and where you want to die.

Preparing your Last Wills

If you really want your wishes upheld, prepare a proper will which includes division of your property and assets, and the naming of your power of attorney. Prepare a will so that your family will have no reason to fight over it once you're gone. It may be necessary to consult an attorney if your will is complicated. However, you can also use software designed for preparing a will. Once completed you should have it notarized and have an attorney review it to protect it from later challenge.

Funeral Guide is a very useful site, providing information on wills, funeral preparation and dealing with death. However, this Module focuses on how you want to die.

Preparing your Living Will

An excellent TED Talk by Peter Saul brings into focus our need to take control of our own dying process. 1 in 10 people will die in Intensive Care (amongst the wealthy that percentage rises to 50%). Is that what you want?

Because of the advances in medical science it is possible to hook you up to lots of clever machinery, put tubes into every orifice and keep you alive for the next 10 years. Is that what you want?

How much effort should be put into “saving your life”, or “keeping you alive”? Do you want to die in Intensive Care, or in your own bed at home? Do you want doctors and nurses clucking around you, or do you want home nursing by someone who knows your likes and dislikes?

Do you want to live no matter what, or is there a point at which your quality of life is not worth the extra days, weeks, months or years?

To ensure you get what you want include a living will and a medical power of attorney as part of your Last Will and Testament Living Will.

Peter Saul posed 2 questions

  • In the event you become too sick to speak for yourself, who do you want to speak for you?
  • Have you spoken to that person? Does he/she know what to say on your behalf?

So often death is seen as failure by the medical establishment, and their oath forces them to continue treatment. Your Living Will can spell out what you want and don't want.

Preparing to cross the Finish Line: end of life decisions - By Christina MH Powell considers issues like Euthanasia, Doctor assisted death and ICU

Organ Donation

The laws of different countries allow potential donors to permit or refuse donation, or give this choice to relatives.

Opt-in vs. opt-out

There are two main systems for voluntary systems: "opt in" (anyone who has not given consent is not a donor) and "opt out" (anyone who has not refused is a donor). In some systems family members are required to give consent or refusal, or may veto a potential recovery even if the donor has consented. Opt-out legislative systems dramatically increase effective rates of consent for donation. However, because of cultural and infrastructural factors, public policies and other factors, this does not translate directly into increased rates of donation.

Brain death versus cardiac death

Brain death may result in legal death, but still with the heart beating, and with mechanical ventilation all other vital organs may be kept completely alive and functional providing optimal opportunities for organ transplantation.

The non-living donor is kept on ventilator support until the organs have been surgically removed. If a brain-dead individual is not an organ donor, ventilator and drug support is discontinued and cardiac death is allowed to occur. Source: Wikipedia.

Collecting your thoughts

Go to the My Living Will Worksheet and use it to collect your thoughts – and then summarise your thinking in the Preparing for my Death Worksheet. (You will use the same summary sheet for the next 3 Modules as well – that way your thoughts are captured in one place.)

Discussion Assignment – Preparing your Living Will

Identify the person who will be authorised to speak for you in the event that you can’t speak for yourself. Make sure that he/she knows what your wishes are. It will be useful to read what other people have included in their Living Will – your wishes could be very useful to someone else in preparing their own Will. 

My Living Will – these are my Wishes...

Discussion Forum

Next module : Preparing my Funeral

It is essential that you prepare for your death – if only to relieve friends and family of the burden of having to settle your affairs and arrange your funeral.

Next Module