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Advance Directives: What You Need to Know

What is an Advance Directive?

An advance directive is a document that gives information to healthcare providers about the care you want if you are seriously ill and unable to speak for yourself.

Advance directive documents are legally recognized in every state, although each state has established its own parameters for the use of these tools. Click here to find your state's guidelines.

Here's how to help make sure your wishes will be honored at the end of life:

  • Determine the end-of-life care options available to you
  • Decide for yourself what kind of care you would want
  • Discuss your end-of-life wishes with loved ones and your physician
  • Document so it’s clear for all to see

Many people find it hard to talk about these topics, but have strong opinions about how they would want to be treated. Early advance care planning is the kindest thing you can do for yourself, your family and friends.

Getting Started

Here are some resources that can help you and your family discuss and document your preferences regarding end-of-life care:

Advance Directives for Specific Conditions

Depending on a patient's disease and progression, certain elements of an advance directive may have increased importance.

Living Will & Power of Attorney

Living Will

A living will is a type of advance directive. It defines your wishes about medical treatments and what should or should not be done if you are no longer able to express your treatment preferences, but does not provide as much clarity as an advance directive in some situations.

Power of Attorney

The durable power of attorney for healthcare decisions is another such tool, allowing you to name a proxy representative who could speak for your values and wishes if you are not able to speak for yourself because of illness, injury or debilitation.