About Pennsylvania's Living Will Law
An individual of sound mind who is 18
years of age or older or who has graduated from high school or has
married may execute at any time a declaration governing the
initiation, continuation, withholding or withdrawal of life-sustaining
treatment. The declaration must be signed by the declarant, or by
another on behalf of and at the direction of the declarant, and must
be witnessed by two individuals each of whom is 18 years of age or
older. A witness cannot be the person who signed the declaration on
behalf of and at the direction of the declarant.
The law provides a statutory basis for
individuals to declare their "will" regarding the use of
artificial life support devices or extraordinary medical
treatment-prior to the time when they become terminally ill and/or
lapse into an irreversible coma or permanent unconsciousness.
Living will declarations are intended
to ease the burden on aggrieved family members who-in the absence of
such a "will"-could be faced with making difficult medical
decisions for their loved ones.
As stated in our law, however, living
wills are not intended to "condone, authorize or approve mercy
killing, euthanasia or aided suicide." Additionally, a person who
has a written living will may revoke that declaration at any time and
in any manner upon communication to an attending physician, other
health care provider or other witness to the revocation.
Further, the law restricts the living
will provision for terminally ill pregnant women. Regardless of
whether a pregnant woman has a signed living will, all life sustaining
treatment is required until the birth of the child-unless such
treatment would be physically harmful to the woman, would result in
pain to the woman that could not be alleviated by medication or would
not permit the continuing development and live birth of the unborn
child. The law requires the state to pay any uninsured costs for such
life support treatment for terminally ill pregnant women.
Surrogate Decision Maker Option-This
provision, which is entirely optional, permits you to name a surrogate
decision maker, someone to make health care decisions on your behalf
if you lose that ability.
Anatomical Gifts-Under Act 102 of 1994,
a provision is added that provides for anatomical gifts in the living
Copyright 2000 Sen. Vincent J. Fumo