In the Patientenverfügungs-Gesetz (PatVG) (Living Wills Act), a distinction is made between binding living wills and those which, while not binding, should nevertheless be used to determine the patient’s will.
A living will is a written declaration of will in which the future patient refuses medical treatment (for example, treatment that could prolong their life). It is intended to be effective if the patient is not capable of making a decision at the time of treatment (for example, because they are unconscious).
A living will is not a testamentary disposition in the true sense of the word, because it does not contain a disposition to be followed after the person’s death.
In a binding living will, the medical treatments that are rejected must be described in specific terms, or emerge clearly from the overall context of the will. Furthermore, it must be clear from the living will that the patient is fully aware of the consequences of the living will.
Doctors must generally adhere to such living wills.
Drawing up a living will
A binding living will requires comprehensive medical information including information about the nature and consequences of the living will for medical treatment.
A binding living will must be drawn up in writing. It must state the date and be drawn up before a lawyer (→ ÖRAK)German text, a notary (→ ÖNK)German text, a legally qualified employee of the patient representative organisation, or a legally qualified employee of an adult protection association.
It remains binding for eight years (unless the patient has specified a shorter period), after which it must be reconfirmed. This will require a medical consultation. After that, the period of eight years begins to run again (unless the patient has specified a shorter period, or changed or supplemented the living will).
An amendment or addition is equivalent to a renewal, which means that the eight-year period is re-set if any of these changes are made.
If the living will has been recorded in a register, a lawyer or a notary is also obliged to record any renewal, amendment or change brought to their attention in the appropriate register, as far as this is technically possible.
If a patient cannot renew a living will because they are not capable of making a decision, it retains its binding force despite the expiry of the eight-year period (or the shorter period specified by the patient).
A living will ceases to be valid if it is not made freely or with serious intent, if its content is not permissible under criminal law and, in particular, if the state of the art in medicine has changed significantly since the date of the previous living will.
In any case, the living will can be revoked at any time by the patient.
Living will register
Any living will can be registered in the register of living wills at the Office of Austrian Notaries and in the register of living wills of the Austrian Lawyers' Association, if desired. Systems are in place to allow all Austrian Hospitals to view the registers of living wills held by the Office of Austrian Notaries (in cooperation with the Austrian Red Cross) and the Austrian Lawyers' Association.
The corpse itself is not considered part of the probate estate. How the dead person is to be laid to rest will be determined by the relatives arranging their funeral.
You can make testamentary dispositions regarding how you are laid to rest, provided they do not violate public law regulations. You can request that your body be available for anatomical studies after your death. To discuss this, it is recommended you contact the medical universities in Vienna, Graz or Innsbruck. It is also recommended that you ensure your relatives or family doctor are aware of this request.
- Register of living wills (→ ÖRAK)German text
- Living will and other precautionary options (→ WPPA)German text
- → Medical University of ViennaGerman text
- → Medical University of GrazGerman text
- → Medical University of InnsbruckGerman text
- Austrian Chamber of Notaries (→ ÖNK)German text
You can download the form for the living willGerman text here.
- Federal Ministry of Social Affairs, Health, Care and Consumer Protection
- Austrian Chamber of Civil-Law Notaries