What is an Advance Health Care Directive?

An Advance Health Care Directive lets you specify your preferences for medical care and lets you nominate someone to make healthcare decisions for you.

An Advance Health Care Directive has two parts: 1) a Living Will and 2) a Medical Power of Attorney.

  • The Living Will is where you specify your preferences for health care and medical treatment. You can specify these preferences in advance so they are known if you are later unable to make decisions for yourself. You can learn more about Living Wills here.
  • The Medical Power of Attorney lets you designate a Health Care Agent to make decisions for you if you are unable to make decisions for yourself and if there is a situation not addressed in the Living Will. You can learn more about Health Care Agents here

Why set up an Advance Health Care Directive?

An Advance Health Care Directive allows you to make certain decisions regarding healthcare and medical treatments in advance so your choices can be carried out even if you are unconscious or unable to make a decision at some later time. 

An Advance Health Care Directive also lets you designate one or more individuals to make healthcare and medical decisions for you if you are unable to make these decisions yourself. 

Agents may be given the power to authorize or withhold treatment, make decisions for you regarding healthcare, and/or make decisions regarding life-sustaining treatment. The powers of an agent may help fill the gaps when your living will do not cover a specific medical condition or treatment option.

Who should set up an Advance Health Care Directive?

Everyone should have an Advance Health Care Directive. Even if you are young and healthy, you never know when an accident or illness may strike and leave you unable to make decisions for yourself. 

What happens if I don't have an Advance Health Care Directive?

If something were to happen, and you were incapacitated, there could be disputes or even litigation over your medical condition and treatment. Doctors may be required to keep you on life support and administer treatments, even if these would go against your (undocumented) wishes. Your family and loved ones may be left helpless and unable to control your treatment. Or worse, a dispute may arise in your family, compounding the burdens facing your family. 

Creating an Advance Health Care Directive can avoid these issues and can give you the opportunity to make your preferences and desires known.

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