January 3, 2020

Why do I Need an Advance Directive?

While it can be very difficult for many people to think about, making decisions about the type of medical care you wish to receive should you become unable to speak for yourself is extremely important. An advance directive does just that— it is a legal document that allows you to state your wishes regarding the medical treatment you wish to receive, should you become incapacitated and unable to do so. 


Advance Directive Facts

  • Most states have a specific form for you to fill out. 
  • You do not need an attorney to create an advance directive. 
  • Most doctors will honor an advance directive from another state. 
  • Your advance directive is not valid until it has been signed by you AND at least one witness, depending on the state. 
  • Your advance directive will not go into effect until you are deemed incapacitated and incompetent by at least one doctor 


What is Included in an Advance Directive?

Typically speaking, an advance directive consists of a living will and a medical power of attorney. A living will is a legal document that enables you to establish your wishes regarding medical care so that your medical team is aware of your wishes and so that your loved ones do not have to make difficult decisions for you. A medical power of attorney allows you to designate a person to make decisions on your behalf. Once you have established an advance directive, your power of attorney will ensure that your caregivers and medical team are following your wishes and can make decisions for you if a situation arises that was not decided in your will. 


Things to Consider

It may be scary to think about and write down your wishes for end-of-life treatment, but creating an advance directive gives you power and control over your medical treatment. Some things to make decisions about may include:

  • If you wish to be resuscitated or not if you stop breathing or your heart stops beating. You may also need a DNR for this
  • If you would want any or all life support treatments to prolong your life or not
  • If you would accept a blood transfusion
  • If you are okay with receiving dialysis treatments
  • If you wish to donate any of your organs after you pass
  • If you should undergo any surgery to potentially prolong your life.


Other information

Before you begin your advance directive, be sure to speak to your healthcare professional first. He or she may be able to give you some more information and thoughtful guidance regarding your specific situation. Once you have made decisions you feel comfortable with, be sure to inform your doctor, spouse, or other family members of your wishes so that they know what you would want, should they need to make any decisions for you in an emergency. Creating an advance directive is an important step in thoroughly planning your end-of-life, and is a good way to ensure your family isn’t left to make difficult decisions for you. For more information about advance directives, visit our website.