For many, discussing serious illness or life-threatening injuries can be difficult, but it is important to make sure that your family knows your wishes regarding your medical care before you are faced with this situation. Advance directives provide you the ability to make your wishes known regarding treatment options such as resuscitation and life-support measures. The most common types of advance directives include a Living Will and a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care Decisions.
A Living Will is a written, legal document that clearly states what types of medical treatments and life-sustaining measures you do and don't want. These can include options such as mechanical ventilation (a machine that breathes for you), tube feeding, surgery, etc. Other terms for a Living Will are a Health Care Declaration or a healthcare Directive.
Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare Decisions
This may also be called a Medical Power of Attorney. This legal document allows you to designate someone to make medical decisions for you if you are unable to do so yourself. The person you designate is your healthcare agent or proxy. You should carefully consider the person that you designate for this duty. Once you designate this person, you need to make certain that he / she will feel comfortable upholding your wishes. This document pertains only to medical decisions, it DOES NOT allow the person to make financial transactions for you. You may want to discuss your medical wishes with your physician and family. You should consider many things when making these decisions. Your prognosis, importance of independence, self-sufficiency, and your religious views are things to consider when making this decision.