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Texas Living Wills Laws

Living wills, also called healthcare directives, are not official wills but rather legally binding documents that state one's medical preferences should they become incapacitated. For instance, your living will may state your desire not to be kept alive by a respirator. Under Texas living wills laws, doctors who are unwilling to follow a durable power of attorney (perhaps for religious reasons) must make an effort to transfer the patient to another physician.

The main provisions of Texas living wills law are listed in the table below. See Living Wills: Introduction for a general primer.

Code Section Health & Safety Code §166.031, et seq. Natural Death Act
Specific Powers, Life-Prolonging Acts Medical procedure or intervention that uses mechanical or other artificial means to sustain, restore, or supplant a vital function and artificially postpone the moment of death of a patient in terminal condition whose death is imminent within a relatively short time without the procedure. Does not include administration of medication or performance of procedure to provide comfort or alleviate pain. May designate a person to make treatment decisions in the event declarant becomes comatose or otherwise incompetent.
Legal Requirements for Valid Living Will (1) Competent adult; (2) 2 witnesses; (3) may be oral with 2 witnesses and attending physician; (4) directive shall become a part of medical record of declarant (if oral, witnesses must sign medical records); (5) not operative for pregnant patients
Revocation of Living Will Revocable at any time without regard to declarant's mental state or competency. May be revoked by declarant or someone in presence destroying document; by signed and dated written revocation; orally stating intent to revoke. Effective when delivered or mailed to attending physician, or when physician notified of oral revocation. Directive effective until revoked. Desire of qualified competent patient supersedes directive
Validity from State-to-State -
If Physician Unwilling to Follow Durable Power of Attorney Unwilling physician must make reasonable effort to transfer patient to another physician
Immunity for Attending Physician Immune from effects of revocation if not adequately notified. No criminal or civil liability for failing to effectuate a directive if there is no knowledge of it. By complying with legal directive, one does not commit act of criminally aiding suicide. No civil, criminal, or professional liability for acting in accordance with this Act unless negligent.

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

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