Living wills and the Catholic position?


What is the Catholic postion on Living Wills? I would like to make one out indicating that if I am braind dead, I do not want to be kept alive by a machine. Is this OK by Catholic rules?


A living will is simply a document, which states your desires should you, become incapacitated or unable to convey your desires yourself. It should be constructed with the tenets of the Catholic Church as a guide and convey the thought that life is sacred and should be protected by all natural means. The Church does not require artificial means of life support or extreme measures (machines) for maintenance of life. The problem arises with interpretation of what constitutes extreme or artificial. Your living will should state clearly that food and water are NOT artificial means of life support; a machine to breath for you is artificial. There is no way for you to fathom all of the possibilities this could encounter. If I were going to have a living will it would include instructions to say that all natural life sustaining elements will be maintained and specifically include water and nourishment. It should protect natural life not end it. Do not simply cut and copy anyone else’s living will.


I think one problem with most Living Wills is that they are vague and hard to understand. Most people don’t know what they are signing. It is hard to convey your intentions ahead of time in a static document when you don’t know what lies ahead.

Most prolifers recommend a health care power of attorney where you transfer to someone who you trust who understands the Church teaching the power to make decisions. You can put in the power of attorney certain directives for them to follow the church’s teaching or to seek counsel from a priest that you trust, etc. You can also combine a health care power of attorney with a living will. Check out the “will to live” project on national right to life’s webpage. I think they are linked on also


Please read this letter from Father Frank Pavone.God Bless


Well I had to be kept alive by machines that breathed for me once, it wasn’t so bad. I’m fine now. I definately wouldn’t make a will that could possibly prevent someone from saving my life whilst I am still young and able to live and recover.

Don’t sign anything without consulting a doctor and/or lawyer.


Check out your diocese’s pro-life office for a Catholic one. Here in the Archdiocese of Denver they have them ready for pick up or mail. Obviously they are faithful to Catholicism in nature and very specific. I recommend that everyone get one ASAP… you don’t want to be the next Terri…


You also might want to contact the National Catholic Bioethics Center for guidelines in how to prepare a living will that is not contrary to Catholic moral teaching.


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit