What is an advance directive?
If you become unable to make decisions about your care, an advance directive, also known as a living will, lets your healthcare team know your preferences for the medical care you want to receive in the future. An advance directive is a legal document, but you do not need a lawyer to complete it. In most cases all you need is your signature and the signature of your medical provider (some forms require additional witness signatures).
In considering treatment decisions for your advance directive, your personal values are key. You should consider your goals and what makes life meaningful to you. Is your main desire to have the most days of life, or do you want to focus on quality of life, as you see it? For example, if an illness leaves you in a permanent coma and you need to be on a ventilator, would you want that?
What type of advance directive should I complete?
There are several types of advance directive forms. Common ones include
- Medical Durable Power of Attorney – This form names a healthcare agent to make healthcare decisions on your behalf, if and when you are medically determined to no longer be able to make your own decisions. This is the most important advance directive form you can complete because it is the most comprehensive.
- MOST – This form, called a Medical Orders for Scope of Treatment (MOST), tells emergency personnel and other healthcare providers whether or not to administer CPR in the event of a medical emergency as well as direction about other life-sustaining measures such a breathing machine, antibiotic use and feeding tubes. The MOST form informs your doctor of your wishes regarding life saving treatments or interventions.
- CPR Directive – This form indicates you refuse cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) in the event of a medical emergency.
- Organ Donor Document – This form indicates your desire to be an organ donor and specifies which organs you are willing to donate. It’s also referred to as an organ donor card (including organ donor designation on your driver’s license).
How do I complete an advance directive?
You may use any of the forms above to complete your advance directive. To obtain the right form for you, talk to your doctor. Here are some links to form resources:
How do I share my advance directive?
You should share your advance directive documents with your family, physicians and other healthcare agents as soon as you have them completed to ensure they understand your wishes if they are called to make a decision about your care.
Talk to your provider today about creating an advance directive.