An advance directive is a legal document that provides direction regarding your health care if you become incapacitated.
It's also called a living will or health care directive.
An advance directive often is included in the same document as your health care power of attorney.
What does incapacitated mean?
Incapacitated means that you are unable to receive and understand information or communicate your decisions as to your care, feeding, shelter or safety.
Who needs an advance directive?
It is your right to accept or refuse medical care. If injury or illness renders you unable to communicate your directions about your care, feeding, shelter or safety, an advance directive will be used as a substitute for your directions.
What is included in an advance directive?
An advance directive spells out your choices about specific medical treatments if you have a terminal medical condition. Normally, it details your wishes regarding the withdrawal or removal of:
- Radiation therapy
- Artificial hydration and nutrition (a feeding tube)
- Surgery or other invasive procedures
- Life support systems
What is the difference between an advance directive and a living will?
Depending on the particular state laws, an advance directive and living will normally have the same purpose. Both spell out your choices about specific medical treatments if you have a terminal medical condition.
What happens if I don't have an advance directive?
Doctors and hospitals are under a legal and ethical duty to preserve life.
If you don’t have an advance directive you will be maintained on life support and medical procedures and interventions will be applied to heal your condition in the discretion of your doctor.
Can I prepare an advance directive?
Nothing prevents you from preparing your own advance directive. In fact, you may have signed one at the hospital if you were recently admitted for surgery.
Can my family override my advance directive?
No. It is against the law for your doctor or the medical facility you are in to act in violation of your choices in your advance directive.
In fact, an advance directive can be a valuable benefit for your family because it takes away the stress and burden of having to make difficult decisions about the refusal of medical care for you.
To eliminate confusion and misunderstanding, it is best if you share your specific directions with your family members while you can still talk about your wishes for your medical care.
How long is an advance directive good for?
An advance directive will be effective until you revoke it or your death.