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Difference Between Living Will and Advance Directive

Living Will vs Advance Directive

In the medical arena, you might hear the terms “living will” and “advance directive.” These are documents that are very applicable and important in the health sector. However, the two differ in their scope and limitations.

An advance directive is a lawful document which itemizes the patient’s conditions about his or her health care terms for terminal services. There are two forms of such. One is called the durable power of attorney and the other is the living will. In the case of the latter, the patient just specifies what his wishes are with regard to certain life-sustaining or life-saving procedures (whether these services are to be granted or refused at a certain stage of the treatment plan). The medical services being referred to are usually those related to terminal care like the refusal to be installed with breathing machines or a secondary breathing apparatus, be subjected to dialysis, and even the denial of resuscitation in the event of a cardiorespiratory arrest. Also referred to as the “patient’s wish,” living wills can also summarize whether the patient will donate his organs or not.

The durable power of attorney is different because it really provides power to an assigned individual (in most cases this is a close family relative) who will act or decide in behalf of the patient whenever the latter is already not capable of deciding for himself. Because the power and authority has been duly assigned to this person, he can then make the decision for the patient and even change some earlier conditions which may have been brought about by some unforeseen circumstances.

These documents do not share the characteristic of mutual exclusivity. As such, an individual can prepare both at the same time so as to have the safest assurance with regard to his terminal wishes. These are often necessary for terminally ill patients. When the time comes that the patient is already unable to make the right decisions (i.e. when he is in a vegetative state), the medical practitioners and family members will be more at ease because they will just respect the patient’s wishes as stipulated in the documents.


1.A living will is one form of advance directive.
2.A living will is more limited in nature as compared to other forms of advance directive because it only states the wishes of the patient about the future hypothetical situations that are probable to arise.
3.A durable power of attorney is a form of advance directive that serves to appoint an authorized representative that can decide on behalf of the patient when the time comes when the latter is already physically incapable of giving medical decisions.

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