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Advance directives are written legal documents by which patients express their wishes about the kind of health care they want to receive in the event they become unable to make their own treatment decisions. This usually means if he or she is physically or mentally incapacitated or otherwise unable to makes these desires known. They are designed to allow competent patients the opportunity to guide future health care decisions. Advance directives include living wills and medical powers of attorney, sometimes called durable powers of attorney.
There are usually two types of advanced directives: the Living Will and medical powers of attorney, often called a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care.
A living will is a legal document that allows people to state in advance their desire to receive, or their desire to withhold, life-support and other life-sustaining procedures when they are permanently unconscious or terminally ill and unable to make informed decisions. It usually permits the withholding or withdrawal of any treatment that might be considered life prolonging or that artificially extends the dying process.
A Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care is a document that allows patients to specify in advance a person to act as their agent, proxy, or surrogate decision-maker to make health-care decisions for them should they become unable to make their own health care decisions.
Durable Powers of Attorney for Health Care are very flexible documents, allowing both the naming of an agent to make decisions for the patient when the patient is unable to do so, and the specification of the treatments that the patient wants or does not want to receive. Unlike the Living Will, the patient does not need to be terminally ill or suffering from an irreversible coma.
Living Will Definition
Advance Directives Questions & Answers
Advance Care Planning Questions & Answers
Termination of Life-Sustaining Treatment Questions & Answers
Are Living Wills Followed?