How to Write an Advance Directive

If you were unconscious and on a life support machine, how long would you like your family to wait and see if you recovered? If you want to make sure your wishes are met, consider prior medical directives.

To find related documents, enter “medical advance directive” and your state into Google. While it is not always necessary to use a specific form, every state has requirements about what makes a directive valid, such as requirements for witnesses. Your hospital can also help you get the paperwork you need.

An advance directive allows you to specify who you want to make decisions for you if you cannot make them yourself. It also usually includes information that will help that person: for example, you will have to grapple with some questions like: At what point do you feel that your life is not worth living? Some of the types of paperwork you may want to complete – which may be separate documents – include:

  • A living will that indicates what kind of care you would like and would not like at the end of your life.
  • A long-term power of attorney that identifies a specific person who will make decisions for you
  • An order not to reanimate if you do not want to be reanimated. This usually needs to be on your medical record and / or signed by your doctor; you may need a new one every time you get to the hospital .

Although you can fill out the forms in advance, the documents are not legally binding. For example, in many states, doctors are allowed to ignore your wishes if you are pregnant . Even when everything goes according to plan, your doctors and family have the final say, so the most important thing is to speak honestly with them so that they understand your wishes. This American Bar Association Toolkit provides questions to think about and how to start these conversations. The National Library of Medicine also has additional information on creating advance directives .


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