With a living will (sometimes referred to as an advance care directive or a patient decree), you determine what medical treatment you want in the final stage of an illness or following a serious accident. You also determine what treatment you do not wish to have.
It ensures that as the patient your wishes will continue to be followed at the end of your life if you are no longer able to express them yourself.
You do not have to make a living will. Living wills are personal and free of charge. You can write one and change it at any time.
There are two types of living will. One concentrates on general points, while the other determines what medical intervention is permitted in different situations. This is what you need to do:
1. Download a template. Forms and specimens are available from many organisations, such as the Swiss Medical Association FMH (website available in German, French and Italian), which offers both short and full versions.
2. Complete your chosen form, then date and sign it.
3. Give your living will to a close friend or family member, or to your family doctor. You can also tell them where your treatment team can find the document if they need it.
4. Keep a note in your wallet about your living will and where it is kept. You can also have it entered on your insurance card.
Do not hesitate to get advice on completing the form. The doctor treating you will be able to help, for example. If decisions have to be made, a clear directive setting out your wishes carries greater weight, and raises fewer questions about what those wishes are.
Review your living will regularly and amend it if necessary. The FMH recommends checking it every couple of years. Do not forget to date and sign the new version.
You do not need to be in the best of health, but you do have to have legal capacity, i.e. be able to decide for yourself.
The living will must reflect your actual wishes. It may not have been drawn up under pressure.
Doctors are bound only by living wills that have been dated and signed by hand.