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Pennsylvania Living Wills Laws

You likely know what a will is, but do you how a living will is different? Often used in conjunction with a durable power of attorney, a "living will" is a legally binding document stating one's medical preferences should he or she become unable to communicate clearly.

Pennsylvania's Living Wills Law

Pennsylvania living will laws are codified under the state's Advanced Directive for Health Care Act, which allows living wills to be revoked at any time without regard to declarant's mental or physical condition.


Under the law, an individual of sound mind who is 18 years of age or older (or who has graduated from high school or married) may execute a declaration governing the initiation, continuation, withholding, or withdrawal of "life-sustaining treatment."

The declaration must be signed by the declarant (or by another person at the request of the declarant if the declarant is unable to sign) and must be witnessed by two individuals over the age of 18. The declaration may include a designation of another person to make treatment decisions for the declarant if the declarant later becomes incompetent.

The specifics of Pennsylvania's living will laws are listed below. See Living Wills: Introduction to learn more.

Code Section 20§5401 et seq. Advanced Directive for Health Care Act
Specific Powers, Life-Prolonging Acts Any medical procedure or intervention that serves only to prolong the process of dying or maintain the patient in a state of permanent unconsciousness; includes artificially or invasively administered nutrition and hydration if specifically provided for in declaration. Does not apply to emergency medical services.
Legal Requirements for Valid Living Will (1) sound mind; (2) 18 yrs. or graduated from high school or married; (3) signed by declarant; (4) 2 adult witnesses; (5) suggested form 20§5404(b); (6) operative when declarant determined to be incompetent by attending physician as certified in writing; (7) not operative during pregnancy unless it will not maintain woman so as to permit live birth
Revocation of Living Will Revoked at any time in any manner without regard to declarant's mental or physical condition. Effective upon communication to physician.
Validity from State-to-State -
If Physician Unwilling to Follow Durable Power of Attorney Unwilling physician must inform declarant, surrogate, or family, and make every reasonable effort to assist in the transfer of declarant to complying physician
Immunity for Attending Physician No civil, criminal, or professional liability in following wishes of declarant pursuant to declaration executed according to statute.

Note: State laws are constantly changing -- contact a Pennsylvania estate planning lawyer or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Pennsylvania Living Wills Laws: Related Resources

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