An advance directive, also called a living will, is a document that formally and officially dictates your wishes when it comes to certain medical treatments and care. Without one of these documents, your doctors are required to do everything they can to keep you alive, even if you wouldn’t want such care. Your advance directive will make it clear if you wish to have specific life-sustaining treatment and other important decisions.
When Does an Advance Directive Become Necessary?
An advance directive is only invoked when two physicians have certified that you cannot make medical decisions on your own and that your medical condition meets all of the state’s requirements. These requirements differ from state to state, but many states say that you must be permanently unconscious or have a terminal illness. When these guidelines have all been met, your advance directive will be taken into account.
For example, if you are permanently unconscious and no longer able to breathe on your own and two physicians agree that you will never be able to do so again, they will consult your advance directive. If you have stated that you do not want any sort of life-sustaining treatment, they will be required to remove the breathing equipment.
Things to Know About Advance Directives
There are a few important things to know about advance directives:
- They do not give anyone the right to make health care decisions for you (for that, you will need a health care proxy or medical power of attorney).
- They do not allow anyone to make decisions regarding your finances or assets.
- You can revoke an advance directive at any time.
- Advance directives remain in effect until revoked or a new one is created automatically terminating the old one.
- Most states honor advance directives created in another state, but that’s not always the case. Make sure you have your advance directive looked at if you move to another state.