What is a Texas Living Will?

A Texas living will is a written legal document that indicates your desire to withhold or withdraw certain medical care based on your healthcare circumstances. In Texas a living will typically contains the following language:

“I _______________ have the primary right under Texas law to make my own decisions concerning treatment that might unduly prolong the dying process. By this declaration, I express to my physician, family, and friends my intent. If I should have a terminal condition it is my desire that my death will not be prolonged by administrative of death-prolonging procedures. If my condition is terminal and I am unable to participate in decisions regarding my medical treatment, I direct my attending physician to withhold or withdraw medical procedures that merely prolong the dying the dying process and are not necessary to my comfort or to alleviate pain. It is not my intent to authorize affirmative or deliberate acts or omissions to shorten my life, rather only to permit the natural process of dying.”

How is a Texas living will made?

Anyone who is competent and 18 years of age or older in Texas can make a Texas living will by signing and dating a statement like that above, either typed or handwritten, before two witnesses. The witnesses must be at least 18 years of age and in order to avoid legal issues, should not be related to the person signing the declaration, a beneficiary of his or her estate or financially responsible for his or her medical care. Consider that while it is important to prepare a Texas living will before any hospitalization or impending surgery you should avoid deciding in a short period of time.

What are the limitations of a Texas living will?

Texas law provides significant limitations to the scope of a Texas living will. Terms such as “death-prolonging procedure” and “terminal condition” are used to specify the circumstances to which a living will applies. Both of these terms are related to conditions where death will occur within a short period of time if additional treatment is not provided. A living will is intended only to avoid treatment when death is imminent and treatment ineffectively avoids or significantly delays death.

Also, Texas statutes prohibit a living will from withholding or withdrawing artificially supplied nutrition and hydration including sustenance supplied through a feeding tube or intravenously.

What are the alternatives to a Texas living will?

In Texas, if you would like to provide healthcare instructions beyond the scope of a living will you may create a Texas healthcare advance directive, instead. A Texas advance directive allows you to provide instruction regarding the degree of medical care you would like to receive in particular circumstances when you are unable to refuse treatment yourself. While a competent patient may refuse treatment himself an incompetent person may rely on an advance directive in order to ensure that his wishes are carried out. Recently, Texas courts have provided people the opportunity to exceed the limitations of living will statutes in advance directives. Advance directives may include instructions to withhold or withdraw artificially supplied nutrition and hydration or other treatment or machinery, which may maintain a patient in a persistent vegetative state.

Additionally, Texas advance directives do not need to be composed in any standard form and may include which procedures may or may not be used as well as the effective timeframes. However, like living wills, advance directives should be signed, dated and witnessed.

Where should I store my Texas living will?

It is important to ensure that your Texas living will or Texas advance directives are easily accessible as they may be needed at a moment’s notice. While some people ensure that they constantly have a copy with them you should provide your physician with a copy at a minimum. This not only notifies him of your desires in the case of an emergency but provides you with the opportunity to discuss your medical options. You should also provide a copy to your attorney-in-fact in the case of your incapacity. Additionally, if you are hospitalized it is important to ensure that a copy has been included with your medical records. It is wise to sign multiple copies of your living will or advance directive.

How do I Revoke a Texas living will?

A Texas living will may be easily revoked or canceled. Under Texas law, either an oral or written statement may revoke your wishes. It is best to gather all copies of your Texas living will and destroy all copies to prevent any confusion. Many state statutes require that note of revocation of a living will be placed in the medical records