Advance Directive: What to Include - Topic Overview
A living will and a medical power of attorney are types of
advance directives. These forms describe the kinds of medical care you want to
receive if you're badly hurt or have a serious illness that keeps you from
saying what you want. A medical power of attorney lets you name a person to be
your health care agent. He or she can make decisions for you if you can't speak
Forms are different in each state, so be sure you
get the right ones for where you live. In some states, the forms may ask you to
address certain issues, or they may be more flexible.
It may be
hard to know what to include in your advance directive. Take your time, and use
the questions below to help you get started.
Who do you want to make your health care decisions for you?
- Do you have a person in mind, such as your
partner, a close friend, or your doctor? (In some states, your treating
doctor can't be your health care agent.)
- Can you talk to this
person about the kinds of treatments you do or don't want to
- Does this put too much pressure on the person to make
decisions for you? Do you think that he or she will be able to do what you
- Do you think that your friends, your family, and others will
support your decisions?
Do you know enough about the kinds of treatments that can help keep you alive?
- Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is used if
your heart has stopped.
- A breathing machine that pumps air into
your lungs through a tube is used if you can't breathe on your own.
- Dialysis is used if your kidneys stop working.
- A feeding tube or an intravenous (IV) line is used to provide
food and fluids if you can't eat or drink.
- Antibiotics are medicines used to treat serious
How do you feel about the use of life support if you:
- Have a serious illness that can't be
- Are in a coma and there is little chance that you'll come
out of it?
- Have a long-term illness that gets worse over time and
doesn't get better?
What concerns you the most?
- Are you worried that you'll have pain or be
kept alive on machines?
- Are you worried that you'll lose your
ability to function and live on your own or that you'll be a burden to your
- Are there things that scare you? Include your fears or
concerns in your advance directive.
What does quality of life mean to you?
- Do you want to be able to function and live on
- Are you okay with living in a hospital or nursing
- Are you okay with being kept alive by machines?