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Advance Directive: What to Include

Table of Contents


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 for yourself.

Many states have a unique form (for example, they may ask you to address specific issues). Or you might use a universal form that has been approved by many states. This kind of form can sometimes be completed and stored online. Your electronic copy will then be available wherever you have a connection to the Internet. Doctors typically respect your wishes even if you have a form from a different state.

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 know enough about the kinds of treatments that can help keep you alive?

How do you feel about the use of life support if you:

What concerns you the most?

What does quality of life mean to you?

Do you have any other thoughts about what quality of life means to you and how much control you want to have over it?

Here are some other questions to think about:

You may find it hard to answer some of these questions. Here's a way to help make things more clear.

Try to picture yourself in each of the situations listed below. Then think about what you would like to happen if you couldn't say what you wanted. As you read through each example, write down any thoughts that come to you.

Try this exercise again with a few more "what if" situations. This time you might think about what your doctor says about your chances for recovery and how that might affect what you decide to do. You may see some patterns develop that can help you decide what to include in your advance directive.

These decisions are tough to make, but you don't have to make them alone. Look to your family, your doctor, and your friends for help and support.


Credits for Advance Directive: What to Include

Current as of: March 17, 2021

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: Anne C. Poinier MD - Internal Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Jean S. Kutner MD, MSPH - Geriatric Medicine, Hospice and Palliative Medicine
Robin L. Fainsinger MBChB, LMCC, CCFP - Palliative Medicine


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