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1. Living Will or Medical Directive

Living Will

California was the first state to enact a law defining living wills with its Natural Death Act in 1976. By the late 1980s, the majority of states had passed similar legislation. Currently, 47 states have such statutes.

Living wills are personal statements indicating that the declarant does not wish to have life-sustaining treatment in the event that he or she is in a terminal condition with no hope of recovery.   

Living wills typically include such phrases as, "If I am terminally ill, there shall be no heroic measures."

Living wills do not give an individual the right to choose and refuse treatment. That right is embedded in the U.S. Constitution and was affirmed in the Cruzan case. Living wills primarily provide protection to health care professionals from criminal or civil prosecution when following directives.

U.S. Living Will Registry

The U.S. Living Will Registry electronically stores advance directives and makes them available to health care providers 24 hours a day via secure Internet or telephone-facsimile. The Registry stores ALL types of advance wills, health care proxies, health care power of attorney, as well as organ donor information.