The Right to Decide How to Die in Spain – Living Wills

Although we can’t control death (yet), medical advances allow us to extend life longer than would be natural. Depending on the state of the person, this possibility could be undesired. Does it make sense living a few days more with great suffering when there is not a solution?

As in the majority of countries, euthanasia is not allowed in Spain. However, people can create a document known as a living will, or Declaración de voluntades anticipadas, in Spanish, to rule how the healthcare professionals should act in cases where the person can’t decide for themselves.

When a living will doesn’t exist, it is the family who will need to make the decision. Many people don’t want to put their beloved family in this situation, and some just don’t trust their capability to do it.

In Spain, any person above 18-years-old can make a living will. In such a document, you can state your personal moral values to make it easy for others to understand how you want to be treated. You can also give instructions about treatments you want or do not want, name a representative that will speak in your name with the doctors, and state if you want to donate your organs.

How Does Someone Make a Living Will?

In Spain, you can make a living will through three ways:

  • With an officer working at the Register of Living Wills, or Registro de Voluntades Anticipadas
  • With a notary
  • With three witnesses, but two of them can’t be direct family (up to third grade next kin)

Always take into consideration that the instructions in the living will are only valid if they are under the law. Thus, it is not a bad idea to talk with both a doctor and a notary when making this decision.

Will They Really Follow My Instructions?

Yes. Any Spanish doctor must consult the Register when treating you if you are not able to speak your mind.

Can I Change My Mind?

As far as you can speak your mind, the doctor will follow your instructions no matter what you write in your living will.

Besides, you can change your living will at any time in the Register.


The use of this document is not common in Spain. However, we find it very useful since it prevents that you will be treated in a different way to your beliefs and desires. Facing death is something very personal, and even between families there can be important differences in points of view.

If you would like help with any of the above matters, please contact us.

11th December 2018
//Spanish Probate Matters