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Advanced Directives

 

Advanced Directives are legal documents that inform your doctor and loved ones about what kind of health care you wish to receive. They should clearly describe what kind of care you want if you have an illness that you are unlikely to recover from or if you are permanently unconscious. Advance directives usually specify that you don’t want certain kinds of treatment and can also say that you want a certain treatment no matter how ill you are. 

  • A Living Will describes treatments you would want if you're terminally ill or permanently unconscious. These could be medical treatments or treatments that will help you live longer. Please note that a Living Will does not let you select someone to make decisions for you.
  • A Durable Power of Attorney (DPA) for health care states whom you have chosen to make health care decisions for you should you become unable to make medical decisions. This may be especially important for members of the LGBTQ community: unless a DPA is in place, decision making may revert to next of kin.
  • DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) orders are binding medical orders that apply only to cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), instructing medical staff not to administer chest compressions. Doctors and hospitals in all states accept DNR orders, which do not have to be part of a living will or other advance directive. Choices about CPR have complexities to consider.
  • Other topics to address in an Advanced Directive might be:
    • Ventilation, i.e. whether or for how long you want a machine to take over your breathing
    • Tube feeding, i.e. whether or for how long you want to be fed through a tube in your stomach or through an IV
    • Palliative care
    • Organ donation
    • Voluntarily Stopping Eating & Drinking (VSED), especially in cases of late-stage dementia
  • A POLST (Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment) form provides medical orders to emergency personnel based on your current medical situation. It represents an agreement between you and your care providers: your doctor or nurse must sign this form for it to be valid.

To help get you started: