Should living wills be legalized?

R. H. Fisher, E. M. Meslin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Living wills allow patients to state their wish to die and not be kept alive through the use of medications, artificial means or 'heroic' measures. They have been made legal documents in 38 states in the United States. Living wills permit advance expression of a patient's wishes, promote effective communication and demonstrate respect for the patient as a person. Problems with legal recognition of such wills include the need for agreement on fundamental terms, possible restriction of patients' rights, limitation of options in decision-making and possible negative effects on the physician-patient relationship. Before legislation is enacted, public and professional attitudes toward the care of terminally ill patients should be assessed. All health care professionals should receive better education in this area, and palliative care services should be made more widely available. Only if these measures fail should living wills be made legal documents in Canada.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)23-26
Number of pages4
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 9 1990

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)

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