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Making a ‘living will’ in France

Any adult can make a “living will” in France to clarify their end-of-life wishes if they find themselves seriously injured or terminally ill and unable to express themselves.

In the absence of such a document, close family or friends will be consulted, especially anyone you have  designated as your “personne de confiance” – trusted person, named to help you if you are ill.

A living will can address such matters as limiting or stopping treatment if you are in a vegetative state; whether or not you would want to be transferred to intensive care to keep you alive at all costs; whether to use artificial respiration, or to undertake surgeries, or instead to have palliative care, which may reduce suffering even if it might cause you to die sooner than otherwise.

Doctors will respect your written wishes unless they agree they are manifestly inappropriate to the medical situation or because a situation is so critically urgent that there is no time to consult them.

Anyone can make a living will, called directives anticipées, although auth-orisation is needed for a person who is sous tutelle (under legal guardianship), either from a judge or the conseil de famille - a group of relatives designated to make decisions for the person.

The document must be signed and dated, including your date and place of birth and full name. A procedure involving two witnesses is possible if you cannot write. See here for a template: It is in two versions: the first for someone who is seriously ill, the second for people in good health.

There is nothing in the laws relating to directives anticipées that they must be written in French, but it is advisable as there is no gua­rantee that French medical profes­sionals who may need to consult them urgently will have good English.

The laws say it is preferable to follow the template models if possible. You can ask your GP for help, if necessary.

Your living will may be lodged with your GP, your personne de confiance, another family member, or with your retirement home or hospital.

Let close family know about it. If you have a dossier médical partagé online medical record, place a copy in that.

It can be changed at any time.

In the case of you being gravely ill, the doctors must check to see if any living will can be found.

This is an edited extract from our new Inheritance Law and Wills in France helpguide. The guide is available to order from the Helpguides section of The Connexion’s website at: 

It is available as a PDF download or print copy for €12.50 (+p&p). The 64-page guide also covers dependency, care homes and the formalities that follow a death in France

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