What is included in an advance healthcare directive?

In general, an advance healthcare directive contains the following sections and information:

  • A declaration section which states that you are in your right mind and aware of your options. This section expresses your legal right to make decisions about your care.
  • The condition you must be in before you may be considered unable to make decisions and your wishes regarding the treatment of ongoing illnesses. If you are in a coma, not mentally competent, unconscious, or in another state, you can detail when the advance directive should be enforced.
  • Your actual wishes and directions for care. This section could be long or short depending on your individual preferences. It includes directions for your doctor on what to do if you need to be resuscitated, what to do about palliative care or pain relief, and what specific actions or treatments you do not want, including ventilation, tube feeding, and resuscitation.
  • The treatments you want to have if you are incapacitated and unable to express your wishes, detailed specifically so that your treatment team and family knows what to do.
  • Your signature and the signature of your witnesses will need to be included.

The more specific you are in your advance directive and the more circumstances you outline, the easier the document will be for your healthcare providers and family to follow. You may also choose to appoint a healthcare agent (also called a proxy) in addition to creating your advance healthcare directive. This person is entrusted with making healthcare decisions for you if you are incapable of doing so for yourself and in case the circumstances in question are not covered in your advance directive.

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