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Advance Medical Directive

An advance medical directive is a form that lets you plan ahead for the care you’d want if you could no longer express your wishes. You can decide the medical treatment you’d want. You can name the person you’d wish to make healthcare decisions for you. Laws vary from state to state. If needed, it may help to talk with an attorney.

Man and woman sitting at table looking at electronic tablet.

Writing down your wishes

  • An advance directive is important whether you’re young or old. Injury or illness can strike at any age.

  • Decide what's important to you. Think about the kind of treatment you’d want, or not want.

  • Some states allow only one kind of advance directive. Some let you do a durable power of attorney (POA) for healthcare and a living will. Some states put both of these on the same form.

A durable power of attorney (POA) for healthcare

  • This form lets you name a person that you have chosen and trust to speak and make decisions on your behalf.

  • This person can decide on treatment for you only when you can’t speak for yourself. Be sure to discuss your wishes with this person from time to time, especially if your health situation changes.

  • You don't need to be at the end of your life. This person can speak for you if you are not awake or aware, but likely to recover.

A living will

  • This form lets you list the care you want at the end of your life.

  • A living will applies only if you won’t live without medical treatment. It would apply if you have advanced cancer, a severe stroke, or other serious illness from which you won't recover.

  • It takes effect only when you can no longer express your wishes yourself.

Online Medical Reviewer: L Renee Watson MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Raymond Turley Jr PA-C
Online Medical Reviewer: Robert Hurd MD
Date Last Reviewed: 3/1/2023
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