st. anthony messenger

May a Catholic Have a Living Will?

Is it proper for me as a Catholic to have a living will? What does the Church teach about this?


This is not only proper but also a great service to one’s friends, relatives, or whoever must make crucial medical decisions for that person.

The term living will is not used very much now, having been replaced in the United States at least by advance medical directives and medical power of attorney.

The directives, which specify procedures to be used or declined, reflect the state of medicine and what the person understands when those directives are drawn up and duly notarized. The power of attorney designates who should make crucial medical decisions for you if you cannot do it yourself.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches: “Discontinuing medical procedures that are burdensome, dangerous, extraordinary, or disproportionate to the expected outcome can be legitimate; it is the refusal of ‘overzealous’ treatment. Here one does not will to cause death; one’s inability to impede it is merely accepted. The decisions should be made by the patient if
[s]he is competent and able or, if not, by those legally entitled to act for the patient, whose reasonable will and legitimate interests must always be respected” (2278).


Saint Anthony Messenger magazine, America's number one Catholic publication

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