advance directive is a legal form that describes the
kinds of medical care you want to receive if something happens to you and you
can't speak for yourself. It tells your family and your doctor what to do if
you're badly hurt or have a serious illness that keeps you from saying what you
The two main types of advance directives are a
living will and a medical power of attorney.
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living will makes clear the kinds of medical care you
want to receive if you get seriously hurt or ill and can't make your own
decisions. It describes your choices for care and how you want them carried out
if you're near the end of your life or are in the hospital with a serious
illness. If you get better and can speak for yourself again, you can stop or
say "no" to treatment at any time. If you have a living will, your choices will
be honored. A living will is also called a treatment directive.
Medical power of attorney
A medical power of
attorney lets you name a person to make treatment decisions for you when you
can't speak for yourself. This person is called a
health care agent or health care proxy. Some states
may limit what your health care agent can decide for you. In a few states, he
or she can speak for you right away and at any time that you don't want to make
choices for yourself. He or she can also use your living will and what he or
she knows about you to help guide your care.
When you choose a
health care agent, select a person you trust to make medical decisions for you.
For more information, see the topic
Choosing a Health Care Agent.
As long as
you can still make your own decisions, your advance directive won't be used.
You can change or cancel it at any time. Your health care agent will only make
choices for you if you can't or don't want to decide for yourself.
In this article
This information is produced and provided by the National
Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National
Institute via the Internet web site at http://
.gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.
WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise
March 12, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor.
Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this