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Health Care Directive (or Living Will)

Authored By: Northwest Justice Project LSC Funded
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A health care directive lets you state what kind of medical treatments you do or do not wish to have if you are terminally ill or permanently unconscious. This resource has the form for you to fill out. Publication #9607EN



Download Entire Packet with Instructions and Forms

Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

What is a health care directive?

A health care directive lets you state what kind of medical treatments you do or do not wish to have if you are terminally ill or permanently unconscious. A health care directive also lets you write down your health care values and any other directions to your medical providers.

Does it have to be notarized?

No. But you must sign it in front of two witnesses who are not related to you, will not inherit from you, and are not your medical providers.

What should I do after I sign it?

You should give it to your medical provider, your agent, and a trusted friend or relative.

Can I still make my own decisions?

Yes. You can still make your own health care decisions if you are capable. You can also change or cancel your directive at any time.

What does "revoke" mean?

It means to cancel. You can revoke your health care directive at any time and make a new one.

Are there other kinds of directives?

Yes. There are health care directives that let you state your preferences for mental health treatments and also for dementia care. You can find these other directives online at: www.washingtonlawhelp.org.

What if I need legal help?

If you are low-income and live outside King County, call the CLEAR hotline Monday-Friday from 9:15 am to 12:15 pm at 1-888-201-1014. You can also apply online at: http://nwjustice.org/get-legal-help.

If you live in King County, call 211 for information and referral to a legal services provider Monday-Friday from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm. You can find more information online at: www.resourcehouse.com/win211/.  

Deaf, hard of hearing or speech impaired callers can call CLEAR or 211 using the relay service of their choice.

211 and CLEAR will conference in interpreters when needed at no cost to callers.


Here are some terms you may find helpful when reading a health care directive:

  • Attending Physician: the physician selected by, or assigned to you and who has primary responsibility for your treatment and care.

  • Life-sustaining treatment: any mechanical or artificial medical intervention that, when applied to a person diagnosed with a terminal condition or a person in a permanent unconscious condition, would only prolong the process of dying. Life-sustaining treatment does not include medication or medical intervention necessary to alleviate pain only.

  • Permanent unconscious condition: an incurable and irreversible condition; a condition where a person has no reasonable probability of recovery from an irreversible coma or a persistent vegetative state according to reasonable medical judgment.

  • Physician: a person licensed under Washington State physician and osteopathy laws.

  • Revoke: to cancel.

  • Terminal condition: an incurable and irreversible condition caused by injury, disease, or illness, that will cause death within a reasonable period of time according to accepted medical standards, and where the application of life-sustaining treatment serves only to prolong the process of dying.


This publication provides general information concerning your rights and responsibilities.
It is not intended as a substitute for specific legal advice. This information is current as of August 2016.

Permission for copying and distribution granted to the Alliance for Equal Justice and
to individuals for non-commercial purposes only.

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Last Review and Update: Aug 16, 2016