Advance directive

An advance directive is a personal statement of how medical care choices should be made and who should make them in the event a person is unable to communicate, such as from having a severe injury or illness. A medical power of attorney, which appoints a person (called a health care agent or proxy) to make medical treatment decisions, and a living will are types of advance directives.

Advance directives should be documented and comply with the guidelines established within a person's state of residence. The provisions within an advance directive, such as when to continue or abandon life-support measures, also should be discussed with a health professional, family members, and other potential decision-makers.

Last Updated: March 4, 2010

Author: Bets Davis, MFA

Medical Review: Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine & Shelly R. Garone, MD - Palliative Care

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