Advance Medical Directive

Man and woman sitting at table looking at paperwork.

An advance medical directive is a form that lets you plan ahead for the care you’d want if you could no longer express your wishes. This statement outlines the medical treatment you’d want or names the person you’d wish to make healthcare decisions for you. Be aware that laws vary from state to state, and it may be worthwhile to talk with an attorney.

Writing down your wishes

  • An advance directive is important whether you’re young or old. Injury or illness can strike at any age.

  • Decide what is important to you and the kind of treatment you’d want, or not want to have.

  • Some states allow only one kind of advance directive. Some let you do both a durable power of attorney for healthcare and a living will. Some states put both kinds on the same form.

A durable power of attorney (POA) for healthcare

  • This form lets you name someone else to be your agent.

  • This person can decide on treatment for you only when you can’t speak for yourself.

  • You don't need to be at the end of your life. He or she could speak for you if you were in a coma but were likely to recover.

A living will

  • This form lets you list the care you want at the end of your life.

  • A living will applies only if you won’t live without medical treatment. It would apply if you had advanced cancer, a massive stroke, or other serious illness from which you will not recover.

  • It takes effect only when you can no longer express your wishes yourself.