Skip to content

Health & Balance

Font Size
A
A
A

Questions & Answers: Advance Directives and End of Life Decisions

What are advance directives?

"Advance directive" is a general term that describes two types of legal documents:

  • Living wills
  • 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 differently.

Recommended Related to Mind, Body, Spirit

Why Anger Is the New Sex

By Joanne Chen Whether it's Wall Street bonuses, the Gulf oil fiasco, or cultural icons (David Letterman! Tiger Woods! Al Gore?!) flagrantly cheating on their wives, Americans have more reason than ever to be pissed off - a sentiment Charles Speilberger, Ph.D., University of South Florida psychologist, says we're also quicker than ever to express. As coeditor of the recently published International Handbook of Anger - just one of the new releases examining our current age of rage - he should...

Read the Why Anger Is the New Sex article > >

What is a living will?

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

Today on WebMD

woman in yoga class
6 health benefits of yoga.
beautiful girl lying down of grass
10 relaxation techniques to try.
 
mature woman with glass of water
Do you really need to drink 8 glasses of water a day?
coffee beans in shape of mug
Get the facts.
 
Take your medication
Slideshow
Hand appearing to hold the sun
Article
 
Hungover man
Slideshow
Welcome mat and wellington boots
Slideshow
 
Woman worn out on couch
Article
Happy and sad faces
Quiz
 
Fingertip with string tied in a bow
Article
laughing family
Quiz