Living Wills

A Living Will is a document that states your wishes about what medical treatment you would want should your doctor determine that you are permanently unconscious or terminally ill with short life expectancy.

Frequently Asked Questions about Living Wills:

Is a “Living Will” the same as a “Last Will and Testament?”

No. Your Last Will and Testament is a separate document that tells your loved ones what to do with your property and resources after your death. A Living Will gives direction about life support treatment – the treatment you want and when you want it stopped.

Where can I get a living will form in South Carolina?

The living will form most commonly used in South Carolina is called a "Declaration of a Desire for a Natural Death." You can request one from the following organizations or from the hospital’s Case Manager.
SC Commission on Aging                        803-735-0210
Joint Legislative Commission on Aging      803-734-2995
Governor's Office, Ombudsman Division    803-734-0457

When would my living will take effect?

It would become effective when two doctors determine that you are permanently unconscious or that your death will occur in a short period of time. In South Carolina, "permanently unconscious" means that you are in a permanent vegetative state in which your body continues to function but your mind does not. This is different from a coma, because a person in a coma usually wakes up, while a permanently unconscious person will not.

What are the requirements for signing a living will?

You must be at least 18 years old, and you must be competent. At least two persons and a notary public must act as witnesses when you sign the document. If you sign a living will while you are a patient in a hospital or a resident in a nursing home, a representative from the Governor's Office called an ombudsman must be called and be present when you sign.

What else should I know about completing the living will form?

You should be sure to state on the form whether you want tube feeding. If you would like to, you can name someone who can revoke or enforce your living will.

What if I am pregnant?

South Carolina law provides that your living will is not effective while you are pregnant.

What if I change my mind after I have signed a living will?

You may revoke a living will at any time while you are competent. There are five simple ways to do so, all of which are explained on the living will form. You must also tell your doctor that you have revoked your living will.

Should I consider signing both a healthcare power of attorney and a living will?

Yes, because each document has advantages that are not available from the other. A healthcare power of attorney allows the person of your choice to decide, after considering all of the facts, what you would want under the circumstances.

If I do not have a healthcare power of attorney or a living will, who will make healthcare decisions for me?

If you are unable to make healthcare decisions, South Carolina law chooses persons who can make those decisions for you, or the courts may be called upon to make the decisions or to appoint someone else to make them. If you want to be sure the person who makes decisions for you is familiar with your wishes, you should appoint an agent in a healthcare power of attorney.

Are healthcare power of attorneys and living wills that were signed in another state valid in South Carolina?

If you have signed a healthcare power of attorney in another state, you should have it reviewed by a lawyer to be sure it is valid in South Carolina. A living will that is valid in another state will probably be accepted in South Carolina. To be safe though, you should sign the living will form approved by the South Carolina legislature.

What if I have an old living will?

On June 21, 1991, South Carolina adopted a new living will form. If you signed a living will in South Carolina prior to June 12, 1991, it is still valid. However, the old form does not say anything about permanent unconsciousness and does not allow tube feeding to be withheld in most situations.
If you signed a living will in South Carolina prior to June 12, 1991, you should consider signing a new living will form.

For more information, you may contact our Case Management Department at 366-3264.