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End-of-Life Decision Making (cont.)


Contents of an Advance Directive

What should the advance directive say?

It's hard to predict your medical situation when an advance directive document takes effect. You could be confined to a bed or a chair. You may not be able to recognize people or have a conversation. You may not be able to read or understand what is said to you. You may feel that if you reached a point when sustaining your life would not be your wish.

  • It's nearly impossible to write an advance directive that will take into account the exact circumstances that you will be in at the end of your life. You do not need to write a detailed directive that says what your family should do in each possible situation.
  • Discuss your preferences with your family or those close to you whom you'd trust to make the same health care decisions you'd make if you were able to make your own decisions.

Appoint a Decision Maker

Who should be your designated health care decision maker?

In a document separate from your advance directive, name a particular person to be your health care decision maker. Name an alternate in case the first person named is unable to be your health care surrogate when the time comes.

  • That document is called a Durable Power of Attorney for Medical Care. It will be your best protection when it comes to implementing your wishes during a difficult time.
  • The document naming a health care agent is particularly important if you'd prefer a nonrelative to make your health care decisions for you. If you don't name a nonrelative, the hospital will usually seek out the closest relative or the courts will name a relative if there's one available. This might not be the person you would like as a decision maker.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 7/20/2016

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