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End of Life Decisions—What is a “Health Care Directive?”

More and more adult children are finding themselves in the position of caring for their aging parents.  A difficult but essential part of that relationship is participating in the planning for end of life decisions.  Fortunately, Washington law gives individuals a broad range of alternatives when confronting these issues. 

A health care directive (sometimes referred to as a “Living Will”) is a patient’s written instructions to their physician regarding authorizing the withholding or withdrawal of life sustaining treatment when the patient is in a terminal or permanently unconscious condition.  The right is codified in Washington law at RCW 70.122. 

To be effective an advance healthcare directive must be signed by the declarer in the presence of two witnesses not related to the declarer by blood or marriage and who would not be entitled to any inheritance from the patient. In addition, a witness to an advance directive may not be the attending physician, an employee of the attending physician or a health facility in which the declarer is a patient. A copy of the directive should given to the patient’s physician and be made part of the patient's medical records retained by the attending physician.

Download a standard form Advance Health Care Directive here...

A health care directive is only one of many life-planning tools. Other important medical planning options include: (1) a health care power of attorney; (2) Anatomical Gift Declaration; (3) hospice consideration; (4) a Do Not Resuscitate bracelet; and (5) having open and honest communication with your family about your wishes.


The estate planning lawyers at Anderson Hunter understand the challenges and complexities of caring for aging parents, and we welcome the opportunity to assist you and your family members with these important decisions. Contact us to schedule an appointment.


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