Living Will Glossary

The following definitions were sourced from various online medical sources and are for general illustration purposes. If you have specific questions regarding any of the treatments or procedures, you should consult with your physician for further guidance:


A drug used to treat bacterial infections. [Source] Antibiotics may sometimes be used as a comfort measure to prevent bed sores. [Source]

Artificial Hydration

Administration of fluid through nonoral means; routes include intravenous (by vein) or subcutaneous (under the skin), rectal, and enteral (tube feeding). [Source]

Artificial Nutrition

Nonoral, mechanical feeding either by intravenous or enteral route. Enteral feedings may be provided through either nasogastric tubes or gastrostomy, esophagostomy, or jejunostomy tubes that are placed either endoscopically or in open surgical procedures. Intravenous nutrition is administered through a central line and often is called total parenteral nutrition (TPN).11 Parenteral nutrition can also be administered through a peripheral vein. [Source]

Blood or Blood Products

A blood product is a component of whole blood, e.g., plasma, platelets, packed red blood cells. Blood products are routinely used in surgery and other medical procedures. [Source]

Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR)

CPR – or Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation – is an emergency lifesaving procedure performed when the heart stops beating. Immediate CPR can double or triple the chances of survival after cardiac arrest. [Source]


Chemotherapy generally refers to the use of medicines or drugs to treat cancer. [Source]


A coma is a state of prolonged unconsciousness that can be caused by a variety of problems — traumatic head injury, stroke, brain tumor, drug or alcohol intoxication, or even an underlying illness, such as diabetes or an infection. A coma seldom lasts longer than several weeks. People who are unconscious for a longer period of time may transition to a persistent vegetative state.

Depending on the cause of a coma, people who are in a persistent vegetative state for more than one year are extremely unlikely to awaken. [Source]

Invasive Diagnostic Tests

An invasive diagnostic test is any type of medical test that requires physicians to use instrumentation to physically enter the body. The instrument can be very small and relatively pain-free, as is the case with taking a blood sample, or more involved, as with a biopsy. Invasive diagnostics generally involve the medical professional looking inside the body to identify a potential medical issue or removing a part of the body that will be tested. Sometimes doctors use medical devices fitted with cameras or other technologically based equipment to evaluate a patient. If the test is apt to be painful, patients will either be medicated or sedated. [Source]

Kidney Dialysis

Dialysis is a treatment that does some of the things done by healthy kidneys. When your kidneys fail, dialysis keeps your body in balance by removing waste, salt and extra water to prevent them from building up in the body; keeping a safe level of certain chemicals in your blood, such as potassium, sodium and bicarbonate; and helping to control blood pressure. [Source]

Major Surgery

A surgery involving risk to the life of the patient; an operation upon an organ within the cranium, chest, abdomen, or pelvic cavity. [Source]

Mechanical Breathing

Mechanical Breathing involves the use of a mechanical ventilator. A mechanical ventilator is a machine that helps a patient breathe (ventilate) when he or she is recovering from surgery or critical illness, or cannot breathe on his or her own for any reason. The patient is connected to the ventilator with a hollow tube and uses it until he or she can breathe on his or her own. [Source]

Minor Surgery

A surgery involving little risk to the life of the patient; an operation on the superficial structures of the body or a manipulative procedure that does not involve a serious risk. [Source]

Pain Medications & Pain Management

Pain management is one of the primary goals of end-of-life care–keeping the patient comfortable and managing symptoms to ensure they have the highest quality of life for as long as they live. This may include the use of opioids to control pain.

Some have expressed concerns about the use of opioids in end-of-life pain management. While there have been reports about the dangers of opioid addiction in the general population, this is not a concern at end-of-life. Patients receiving end-of-life care generally have been diagnosed with six months or less to live. There is no time to develop an addiction. Using the most effective tool for pain relief should be the primary concern.

Another concern some have is that using opioids may hasten their loved one’s death. Studies have shown the opposite is true. Patients receiving the support of end-of-life care tend to live longer once their symptoms are managed. [Source]

Persistent Vegetative State

The vegetative state is a clinical condition of complete unawareness of the self and the environment, accompanied by sleep-wake cycles, with either complete or partial preservation of hypothalamic and brain-stem autonomic functions. In addition, patients in a vegetative state show no evidence of sustained, reproducible, purposeful, or voluntary behavioral responses to visual, auditory, tactile, or noxious stimuli; show no evidence of language comprehension or expression; have bowel and bladder incontinence; and have variable preserved cranial-nerve and spinal reflexes. A persistent vegetative state generally refers to a vegetative state present one month after acute traumatic or nontraumatic brain injury or lasting for at least one month in patients with degenerative or metabolic disorders or developmental malformations. [Source]

Simple Diagnostic Tests

Non-invasive diagnostic tests such as testing vital signs (e.g., blood pressure, breathing rate, temperature, etc.), scans (e.g., MRIs, CT Scans, PET Scans, Mammograms, ultrasounds, etc. and similar non-invasive tests. [Source]