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Oregon Living Wills Laws

Some health care incapacity legal documents can be confusing because the names are often used interchangeable, such as living will, advanced health care directive, and health care power of attorney. This article focuses on Oregon's living wills laws.

Living Wills

A living will isn’t the same as a will that dictates how want your possession distributed when you die. A living will expresses your wishes regarding medical treatment, including life-support and organ donation, when you’re not able to tell your doctors what you want because you’re unconscious, in a coma, or otherwise incompetent. This will hopefully prevent a family feud over what to do with you, like what happened in Terri Schiavo’s case.

The following chart describes the main parts of the living will laws in Oregon.

Code Sections Oregon Revised Statutes Chapter 127 - Powers of Attorney, Advance Directives for Health Care, POLST Registry, etc.
Specific Powers for Agent and Life-Prolonging Acts Your agent can make decisions for medical care including life-prolonging acts for you that don’t conflict with any other directions you made in the advance directive.

Oregon law defines “life-sustaining acts” as the mechanical or other artificial means to sustain, restore, or supplant a vital function that is used to maintain life of a person suffering from a terminal condition and serves only to prolong artificially the moment of death. However, this doesn’t include procedures to sustain patient cleanliness and comfort.
Legal Requirements for Valid Living Will To create a valid advance directive for health care in Oregon, you must comply with these requirements:
  1. In writing using the mandatory statutory form from Oregon Revised Statutes Section 127.531
  2. Signed by two witnesses who make written declaration and at least one of whom isn’t your relative by blood, adoption, or marriage
Revocation of Living Will The creator of the advance directive can revoke it by:
  1. Any manner he or she is able to communicate to the health care provider or agent the intent to revoke it
  2. Executing a subsequent durable power of attorney
  3. If the agent is the spouse, he or she is automatically revoked as agent upon divorce
Validity of Out-of-State Living Wills A living will or durable power of attorney created in another state is valid in Oregon, if executed in compliance with the laws of the state where the person lived when it was created or with the laws of Oregon.
If Physician Unwilling to Follow Patient’s Requests The doctor must notify any health care representative of his or her inability to comply with the patient’s wishes, discharge the patient without abandoning him or her, or make a reasonable effort to locate and transfer the patient to a willing physician.
Immunity for Attending Physician The attending physician isn’t liable in civil or criminal court or in a professional disciplinary action, if he or she acted in good faith on a fully executed health care directive.

Many people are uncomfortable considering terrible things, like a catastrophic car accident that induces a coma, happening to them. However, planning ahead is key to getting the medical care you want and leaving your possessions to your loved ones. If it’s time to make a living will, you should considering speaking to an experienced Oregon estate planning lawyer.

Note: State laws change frequently, because of this, you should contact an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify these laws, especially if you plan to create end-of-life planning documents.

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