The living will is an advance directive document enabling a mentally competent person to set forth in writing the medical treatment she/he wishes to receive or refuse in the event of diminished decision-making ability.
The living will is primarily directed at treating physicians, and helps them and family members in the process of making difficult decisions when the person concerned lacks the mental capacity to agree to or refuse certain treatments at the time they are required.
With the Swiss Adult Protection Law, which entered into force on a 1 January 2013, a living will dated and signed by hand is legally binding in Switzerland. Notarisation is not needed.
Under Swiss law the living will is only legally binding in Switzerland. However, since all of Europe and America recognise the right to personal liberty, advance directives may also apply abroad, if the formal requirements of the country in which it is to be used have been complied with. It should be noted that treatment decisions are implemented differently in different countries, meaning that the instructions in the living will may be interpreted and understood differently, and problems with the foreign language may occur.
It must be a natural person (not an institution) whom you trust. A lasting power of attorney is a document that lets you appoint one or more people (known as healthcare agents, proxies, or representatives) to make decisions on your behalf. Any legally competent person with the ability to make his/her own decisions can appoint a person who is responsible, to what extent, for assistance and care, for the management of his/her assets and for legal representation in the event of diminished mental capacity. The trusted person may be responsible for all or only one or two of the three areas listed above. Accordingly, more than one proxy can be determined. If you do not specify a person, a legal representative will be appointed in accordance with the Swiss Civil Code Art. 378.
Since it is impossible to foresee all situations and circumstances in a living will, it is useful to write down on a separate sheet the values and beliefs you hold that guide you through important decision making. This allows third parties, especially in medical matters, to make important decisions in your best interests and according to your presumed will.
In the living will you record what medical treatments you agree or disagree with, and to whom you give power of attorney in the event that you are unable to make your own decisions. The documents you store in evita or the contact details of your trusted person can be viewed in the event that you need urgent medical care using an advance directive ID card, which you should always carry with you.
With the new Swiss Adult Protection Law, in the event that you need urgent medical care, every physician is obliged to check whether a living will exists before starting treatment and to abide by it. When such instructions are available, physicians and family members are generally relieved that the burden of decision making has been lifted and they no longer have to struggle with the question: “What would the injured or ill person probably have wanted?” By depositing your living will in evita, you have more control over what happens to you in the event that you need urgent medical care.