Advance Health Directives
Establish Your Preferences for Health Care
Advance directives are legally binding documents that specify treatments you prefer or refuse if you become unable to express your wishes. If you do not want certain treatments, you have the right to tell your doctor, either orally or in writing, that you do not want them. If you want to refuse treatment but don’t have someone to name as your agent, you can sign a living will. Guest Services can help you with additional information about advance directives.
Legal Documents for Health Care Situations
Healthcare Power of Attorney vs. Living Will
- Care Decisions: The agent named in a healthcare power of attorney can make decisions about health care. A living will only affects use of life support in certain circumstances. A living will only tells the doctor what to do if a patient is permanently unconscious or terminally ill and close to death. A healthcare power of attorney is not limited to these situations.
- Care Preferences: A living will can only specify declined treatments. A healthcare power of attorney can specify the treatments sought as well as those declined.
- Future Decisions: Living wills establish future treatment without knowing exactly what the circumstances will be when the decision is put into effect. A healthcare power of attorney establishes an agent who can make decisions when the need arises and will know what the circumstances are.
- Witnesses: An Ombudsman, as designated by the State Ombudsman, Office of the Governor, must witness the signing of a living will in a hospital or nursing home. An Ombudsman does not have to be a witness when a healthcare power of attorney is signed in a hospital or nursing home.