What is a living will?

A living will is a document that expresses your wish not to have your life artificially prolonged if you become terminally ill and be unable to make health care decisions for yourself or if you enter a permanent vegetative state. Life-prolonging intervention includes artificial feeding and breathing tubes, but it does not include administration of medication or the performance of any medical procedure deemed necessary to relieve pain and provide comfort. A terminal illness is an incurable condition that the physician states will result in death in a relatively short time. A persistent vegetative state is diagnosed by a qualified physician who states that the patient has suffered irreversible damage to brain stem function and that the patient experiences no self-awareness or awareness of his/her surroundings.  

If you wish to avoid life support, you may execute a living will. By expressing your own desires about how you wish to be treated upon becoming terminally ill or entering a persistent vegetative state you may make it easier for your loved ones to make what might otherwise be complicated and emotional decisions regarding your care. The law requires medical providers to respect your properly-executed living will. 

For more information, see: W. Va. Code §§ 16-30-3 to -4 (2015); http://www.wvendoflife.org (last visited May 28, 2015).