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What is an advance directive?

What is an advance directive?

It’s a legal document. It tells doctors what medical care you want and don’t want. And it’s only for when you can’t speak for yourself due to injury or illness. It’s called an “advance directive” because you choose what you want in advance. It tells doctors things like:


  • Whether you want to be kept alive on machines
  • Who makes other medical choices for you when you can’t
  • If you wish to donate your organs after you pass away  

There are three types of advance directives:


  1. Living will
  2. Designation of health care surrogate
  3. Anatomical donation


You can choose whether you want one, two or all three. But you don’t need to have an advance directive if you don’t want one. You can also change your mind about these documents anytime.


Learn more or download advance directives forms



Already have an advance directive?


Make sure you: 


  • Sign and date it
  • Keep a copy for yourself 
  • Give a copy to your health care surrogate
  • Give a copy to all your providers 
  • Take a copy with you to the hospital or emergency room 
  • Keep a copy in your car (if you have one) 

What is a designation of health care surrogate?


It’s a legal form. It names the person you want to be your health care surrogate. A health care surrogate makes medical decisions for you if you aren’t well enough to make them. This person makes choices based on what you want and what’s best for you. This can be for just a short time or over the long term. Other names for a health care surrogate are:


  • Health care representative
  • Durable power of attorney for health care
  • Medical power of attorney

You have the right to name who you want as your health care surrogate. It’s up to you how much power they have to make decisions for you. You also decide when their power starts. It can start right away. Or only after a doctor says you’re unable to decide for yourself.

What is a living will?


A living will is another type of advance directive. It lists your wishes for medical treatment if you’re very ill and may not recover, or you can’t speak for yourself. It tells your doctors what treatment you do or don’t want. This could be treatment or care to keep you alive when there’s no chance of recovery.

What is an anatomical donation? 


You can choose to donate your organs or parts of your body when you pass away. This advance directive is called an “anatomical donation.” It can help others who need organ transplants. It can also help with medical education and research.

Talk with your provider

Talk with your provider

You can talk with your provider if you need help or have questions. We’ll help you find a provider who will follow your advance directive(s). If they don’t follow them, you can file a grievance.


Learn more about grievances

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