A living will is a legal document that describes the end-of-life medical treatment a person would or would not want to receive if the person was unable to communicate a decision at the time of care delivery. Living wills are important to consider in the study of life-span human development because the majority of deaths in the developed world are the predictable result of chronic, long-term illnesses, rather than the sudden result of injury, crime, or contagion. This entry describes the history of living wills, modern U.S. law surrounding these documents, common problems with living wills, and recommendations for the documentation of care preferences in a living will.


Lawyer Luis Kutner first proposed the living will in 1969. He noted that U.S. law regarded anyone

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