Living will; Power of attorney; DNR - advance directive; Do not resuscitate - advance directive; Do-not-resuscitate - advance directive
When you are very ill or injured, you may not be able to make health care choices for yourself. If you are unable to speak for yourself, your doctors may be unclear as to what type of care you would prefer. And your family members may be uncertain or disagree about the type of medical care you should receive. An advance care directive is a legal document that tells your doctor what care you agree to in advance of this type of situation. With this document, you can tell your doctors what medical treatment you do not want to have and what treatment you want no matter how ill you are.
Writing an advance care directive may be hard. You need to:
A living will explains the care you do or do not want. In it, you can state your wishes about receiving:
Each state has laws about living wills. You can find out about the laws in your state from your doctor, the state law organization, and most hospitals.
You should also know that:
Write your living will or health care power of attorney according to your state's laws.
You can change your decisions at any time. Be sure to tell everyone involved -- family members, proxies, and health care providers -- if you make changes to your advance directive or a living will is changed. Copy, save, and share the new documents with them.
Kapp MB. Ethical and legal issues. In: Duthie EH, Katz PR, Malone ML, eds. Practice of Geriatrics. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2007:chap 6.
Marchand LR. The plan of care. In: Walsh D, Caraceni AT, Fainsinger R, et al., eds. Palliative Medicine. 1st ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2008:chap 120.
Updated by: Todd Gersten, MD, Hematology/Oncology, Florida Cancer Specialists & Research Institute, Wellington, FL. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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