What is an Advanced Directive? Why do you need it?

Posted on September 16, 2021

What is an Advanced Directive?

An advance directive is a legal document that explains how you want medical decisions about you to be made if you cannot make the decisions yourself. It lets your health care providers know what kind of health care you want, or who you want to make decisions for you in the event you are incapable. An advance directive (aka a Living Will) can help you think ahead of time and about what kind of care you want. A Living Will can cover everything from emergency situations all the way to special little quirks you have. Even if you aren’t sure what you want yet, it’s better to start your list of wants now. Living wills also have to follow the requirements of each state and are governed under different laws in each state. It’s important to understand how those laws may impact your advance directive. An Advance Directive is purely medical; it is entirely separate from your finances.

Why do I need an Advance Directive?

An Advance Directive ensures you will have complete control over what happens to you no matter the state of your mind or your body. Having a Living Will makes your intentions clear, takes the burden off your family and protects you. Only you can decide what is best for you, but without an Advanced Directive someone else may make decisions you wouldn’t have. You should also fill out a POLST, so when your heart inevitably stops everyone will know what to do. State surrogate consent laws typically provide a complex tree of who should make the decision, often starting with the next of kin. Only 44 states have these laws, though, and 20 of those laws indicate that a “close friend” who is familiar with the patients’ values can make the decision if the required family aren’t present. Only around 11 states have laws that accommodate situations where the patient has no one to make the decision; in that case, physicians or hospital boards are typically called up to decide what treatment the patient will receive.

Here are a couple of links with further information:


Silver Lining Home Healthcare (silverlininghealthcare.com)

What Is an Advance Directive, and Why Do I Need One? – Neptune Society

What Is An Advance Directive? – Updated for 2021 – AgingInPlace.org


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