Know the Facts

Click on the statements below to learn about some of the common myths and misconceptions about advance care planning.

A living will completed in one state is not valid in another state.

FALSE: Every state recognizes living wills and healthcare surrogate documents. While the states may use different language and have different legal requirements, all states have laws that give individuals the right to determine how they want to be treated. Check the laws in your state for more information.

Having a living will means I do not want any treatment.

FALSE: A living will states your wishes for the medical treatment you want and don’t want. Many people want to avoid being kept alive artificially when they are close to death, and others may choose to be kept alive for as long as medically possible. It is up to you.

If I have an unexpected illness or injury I will not receive treatment if I have a living will.

FALSE: Hospitals and physicians do not limit treatment options because you have a living will. If you are in an accident, or have a heart attack or some other injury, a living will does not prevent you from receiving medical care. A living will only takes effect when you are unable to communicate and at least two doctors agree that you have little or no chance of recovery. Those decisions are not made by emergency medical staff.

If I designate a healthcare surrogate, I give up control over my medical decisions.

FALSE: You do not give up the right to make your own decisions by signing a living will or choosing a healthcare surrogate. As long as you are able to make decisions, your choices will determine the kind of medical treatment you receive.

I need a lawyer to do a living will.

FALSE: There is no need to hire a lawyer to do a living will. There are four simple steps to follow: 1. Obtain the living will. There are many free online sources for this, including our form or interactive tool. 2. Sit down with your loved ones and discuss your wishes. 3. Complete the simple paperwork. 4. Share the completed living will with your healthcare surrogate, loved ones and physician(s), and keep extra copies in places you can easily find them.

Living wills only are for “old people.”

FALSE: While we tend to think of death and dying as something that only happens when you are older, accidents and illnesses do happen. Younger people have plenty to lose in a tragedy, and might end up being kept alive for many years in a condition they would not want.