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Advance Directives

Advance Directives Introduction

Advance directives center around the principles of your right to die and death with dignity. With an advance directive, you can express how much or how little you want done for you when you are no longer able to make these decisions.

  • Advance directives are a way of making your voice heard when you can no longer communicate. They allow you to appoint someone to make your health care decisions for you when you no longer can and to administer or withhold treatment and procedures based on your previously stated wishes. Advance directives are not just for the elderly. All people who desire to direct their medical care in the future should complete an advance directive.
  • All 50 states and the District of Columbia have laws regarding advance directives. Authorities also agree that no difference exists between withholding lifesaving treatment and withdrawing life-support treatment. This is especially important in a situation where someone is resuscitated despite his or her wishes because the advance directive could not be found and the person is put on life support. Once the advance directive is shown to health care professionals, life-support measures can be withdrawn according to the advance medical directive.
  • An advance directive does not mean "do not treat." This is a common misperception and not correct. Of course, if you want it to mean do not treat, then that is something that your surrogate needs to know.
  • Proper execution of an advance directive is a delicate task. A person should discuss this with his/her loved ones and consider his/her inner values and beliefs. Religious and spiritual beliefs also play an important role in writing a medical directive.
  • It is also impossible to think about all the possible medical and social scenarios that may happen in the future during the course of a disease and person's lifetime. Thus, people often change their minds contrary to their living wills while still capable of making their own decisions. Living wills can be modified to reflect any such changes if they occur.

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