Questions & Answers: Advance Directives and End of Life Decisions
What are advance directives?
"Advance directive" is a general term that describes two types of
Medical power of attorney
These documents allow you to instruct others about your future medical care
wishes and appoint a person to make healthcare decisions if you are not able to
speak for yourself. Each state regulates the use of advance directives
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A living will is a type of advance directive in which you put in writing
your wishes about medical treatment for the end of your life in the event you
cannot communicate these wishes directly. Different states name this document
differently: for example, it may be called a "directive to physicians,"
"health care declaration," or "medical directive." Regardless
of what it is called, its purpose is to guide your family and doctors in
deciding about the use of medical treatments when you are dying.
Your legal right to accept or refuse treatment is protected by the
Constitution and case law. However, your state law may define when the living
will goes into effect, and may limit the treatments to which the living will
applies. You should read your state's suggested document carefully to ensure
that it reflects your wishes. You can add further instructions or write your
own living will to cover situations that the state suggested document might not
address. Even if your state does not have a living will law, it is wise to put
your wishes about the use of life-sustaining medical treatments in writing.
WebMD Medical Reference from the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization