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
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 and others involved in helping you what care you agree to or decline in advance of this type of situation.
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 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.
Lukin W, White B, Douglas C. End-of-life decision making and palliative care. In: Cameron P, Little M, Mitra B, Deasy C, eds. Textbook of Adult Emergency Medicine. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 21.
Rakel RE, Trinh TH. Care of the dying patient. In: Rakel RE, Rakel DP, eds. Textbook of Family Medicine. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 5.BACK TO TOP
Review Date: 1/18/2022
Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. 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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