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Five Wishes Document [USA]

A Five Wishes Document can supplement the Advance Health Care Directive (AHCD). The five wishes document is now valid in 40 states.  You can check whether it is valid and download if from the internet by visiting

  • So Wha The AHCD allows you to appoint a health care agent (also known as “Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care” or “attorney-in-fact”), who will have the legal authority to make health care decisions for you if you are no longer able to speak for yourself. This is typically a spouse, but can be another family member, close friend, or anyone else you feel will see that your wishes and expectations are met. The individual named will have authority to make decisions regarding artificial nutrition and hydration and any other measures that prolong life—or not.
  • Prepare Instructions for Health Care
    The AHCD allows you to make specific written instructions for your future health care in the event of any situation in which you can no longer speak for yourself.
    The Advance Health Care Directive provides a clear statement of wishes about your choice to prolong your life or to withhold or withdraw treatment. You can also choose to request relief from pain even if doing so hastens death. A standard advance directive form provides room to state additional wishes and directions and allows you to leave instructions about organ donations.

So What is the Downside of the Five Wishes Document?

The downside, is in only using the Five Wishes Living Will form of document. While, yes, it is better than having no advance directive, the Five Wishes form may not be readily recognizable to the medical profession of your state. The medical provider of your state will undoubtedly be more readily familiar with the terminology and definitions of the specific language offered in the provider’s state’s recommended form.

Even though the majority of states, though not all of them, do, by law, recognize the legality of other states’ advance directives, your medical provider may not have the legal knowledge, or the time to do research, of your state’s definitions, and other pertinent laws related to the terminology used by the out-of-state living will document. This unfamiliarity could create confusion in the actual interpretation of your wishes regarding your treatment, which could also add to delay, and the greater possibility of the medical provider opting for further legal review out of fear of possible litigation.

In addition to the variances in definitions of terms set forth by state law, other differences in state law requirements may create other issues, if using the Five Wishes Living Will Document alone: States differ procedurally as to execution of the document, determination of incapacity, and what’s required for a legal finding of incapacity, and how and when you may revoke the living will.

In short, the Five Wishes Living Will is a great document to have in conjunction with either your state’s recommended form, or this site’s embellished (after Schiavo) version of your state’s form. However, it is not recommended to be used alone. So, remembering that our state governments make the laws over its citizens, it is best to look to, and educate yourself about, and use the framework of your state’s recommended form, even if your state recognizes “other” forms.

From Washington State Advanced Medical Directive Forms [].

If you have questions on any of these resources, please feel free to contact