An advance health care directive, also known as living will, personal directive, advance directive, medical directive or advance decision, is a legal document in which a person specifies what actions should be taken for their health if they are no longer able to make decisions for themselves because of illness or incapacity.
Why is it important?
This legal document is important because it acts as the voice of a patient when the patient cannot speak for him or herself. In a health emergency, a patient may have specific beliefs and preferences about the extent of care he/she wants related to pain management, nutrition, hydration, respiratory support, etc., to keep him or her alive. An advance health care directive informs health care providers about what the patient wants.
How do I get it?
Estate and family planning lawyers can help create medical directive documents - but, a lawyer is not required. Each state provides forms that a patient can access online to print out and have signed in order for the directives to be legally enforceable.