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Basics: What's an Advance Directive?

Summer 2005

Advance Directive (Advance Directive for Health Care)

Advance directive is a generic term for documents that typically include a living will and durable power of attorney for health care. These documents allow you to provide instructions relating to your future health care, such as when you wish to receive treatment or when you wish to stop or refuse life-sustaining treatments.

The part often referred to as the living will is a place for you to specify what kinds of treatments and care you would or would not want if you were unable to speak for yourself.

The other part, often called a durable power of attorney for health care allows you to appoint someone to act on your behalf in matters concerning your health care when you are not able to decide for yourself due to illness or incapacitation. This document covers health issues only; it does not include finances, estate or business concerns. The person you appoint might be called your health care agent, proxy or representative. This publication uses the term agent.

Together these documents are commonly referred to as your advance directive. Research shows that the term living will is more widely recognized than advance directive by Americans. For this reason living will is used on the Compassion & Choices Web site to describe our services.

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This article was provided by Compassion & Choices. It is a part of the publication Compassion & Choices Magazine.
 

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