Myth and Fact
Myth: You always have to use your state's statutory form for your advance directive to be valid.
Fact: Many states do not require a particular form, but require witnessing or other specific signing formalities. Other states specify a particular form. Contact Compassion & Choices for your state's correct forms.
Myth: Advance directives are legally binding, so doctors have to follow them.
Fact: Advance directive laws give doctors and others immunity if they follow your valid advance directive. A more reliable strategy is to discuss your values and wishes with your health care providers ahead of time, to make sure they understand what you would want and are willing to support your wishes.
Myth: An advance directive means "do not treat."
Fact: An advance directive can express both what you want and don't want.
Myth: If I name a health care agent, I give up the right to make my own decisions.
Fact: Naming a health care agent does not take away any of your authority. You always have the right while you are still competent to make your own health care decisions or revoke a directive.
Myth: Once I give my doctor a signed copy of my directive, my task is done.
Fact: Advance care planning is an ongoing process. Review your wishes annually or anytime your health or family status changes. Make the appropriate changes. Communicate those changes as needed and give copies of revised documents to those who need them.
Myth: You must have a living will to stop treatment near the end of life.
Fact: Treatment may be stopped without a living will if everyone involved agrees. However, without some kind of advance directive, decisions may be more difficult and disputes more likely.
Myth: Advance directives are only for old people.
Fact: It is true that, on average, older people are more likely to have advance directives, but every adult should have one. Some of the best-known choice-in-dying cases arose from the experiences of young people (e.g., Terri Schiavo, Nancy Cruzan, Karen Ann Quinlan) incapacitated by tragic illness or car accidents and maintained on life support.
Adapted from documents produced by the American Bar Association.
This article was provided by Compassion & Choices. It is a part of the publication Compassion & Choices Magazine.