Advance care directives
When you are very ill or injured, you may not be able to make health care choices for yourself. If you are unable to speak for yourself, your health care providers may be unclear as to what type of care you would prefer. Your family members may be uncertain or disagree about the type of medical care you should receive. An advance care directive is a legal document that tells your providers what care you agree to in advance of this type of situation.
Living will; Power of attorney; DNR - advance directive; Do not resuscitate - advance directive; Do-not-resuscitate - advance directive; Durable power of attorney - advance care directive; POA - advance care directive; Health care agent - advance care directive; Health care proxy - advance care directive; End-of-life-advance care directive; Life-support - advance care directive
Why Write an Advance Directive?
With an advance care directive, you can tell your providers what medical treatment you do not want to have and what treatment you want no matter how ill you are.
Writing an advance care directive may be hard. You need to:
A living will explains the care you do or do not want. In it, you can state your wishes about receiving:
Each state has laws about living wills. You can find out about the laws in your state from your providers, the state law organization, and most hospitals.
You should also know that:
Other Types of Advance Directives
Other types of advance directives include:
Write your living will or health care power of attorney according to your state's laws.
You can change your decisions at any time. Be sure to tell everyone involved, family members, proxies, and providers, if you make changes to your advance directive or a living will is changed. Copy, save, and share the new documents with them.
Fabiny A, Sabatino C. Living Wills: A Guide to Advance Directives, the Health Care Power of Attorney, and Other Key Documents. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Health Publications; 2013.
Rakel RE, Trinh TH. Care of the dying patient. In: Rakel RE, Rakel DP, eds. Textbook of Family Medicine. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 5.
Zorowitz RA. Ethics. In: Ham RJ, Sloane PD, Warshaw GA, Potter JF, Flaherty E, eds. Ham's Primary Care Geriatrics: A Case-Based Approach. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 7.
Review Date: 2/18/2018
Reviewed By: Laura J. Martin, MD, MPH, ABIM Board Certified in Internal Medicine and Hospice and Palliative Medicine, Atlanta, GA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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