What is a Health Care Directive?

A group of legal documents that allow you to plan and put your wishes in writing regarding your end of life wishes.

Treatment Decisions

Patients have the right to make their own choices regarding their health care, including the right to accept or refuse medical or surgical treatment. One way patients can make their health care wishes known is through Advance Care Planning. The law requires hospitals to ask each patient upon admission whether or not they have a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care, also known as a Living Will or an Advance Directive.

Advance Care Planning is a way to understand, talk about and communicate your health care choices with your loved ones and health care providers in the event you cannot speak for yourself.

In a Living Will, an individual names a trusted “advocate” to make or carry out their health care decisions in the event they are unable to make decisions themselves. The patient is also encouraged to include instructions about his or her specific values and choices regarding life-prolonging medical care. By signing (several signatures, including witnesses, are required); the advocate accepts the designation of Patient Advocate and agrees to honor the patient’s wishes.

Who should prepare a Health Care Directive?

Advance directives are entirely voluntary but are highly recommended for anyone 18 years of age and older. Copies of the Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care can become part of your medical record and given to your health care providers. Unexpected end-of-life situations can happen at any age. Putting your wishes in writing is the best way to make sure your wishes are followed by family, friends and health care providers.

For those interested in creating one, hospital caregivers can help patients understand the process and guide the discussion for appointing a Patient Advocate. Regardless of whether or not a patient has an advance directive, patients and families may discuss with the attending physician their wishes regarding providing, withholding, or withdrawing care or medical treatment.