What kind of medical care would you want if you were too ill or hurt to express your wishes? Advance directives are legal documents that allow you to spell out your decisions about end-of-life care ahead of time. They give you a way to tell your wishes to family, friends, and health care professionals and to avoid confusion later on.
A living will tells which treatments you want if you are dying or permanently unconscious. You can accept or refuse medical care. You might want to include instructions on
- The use of dialysis and breathing machines
- If you want to be resuscitated if your breathing or heartbeat stops
- Tube feeding
- Organ or tissue donation
A durable power of attorney for health care is a document that names your health care proxy. Your proxy is someone you trust to make health decisions for you if you are unable to do so.
NIH: National Cancer Institute
- Advance Care Planning: Healthcare Directives (National Institute on Aging) Also in Spanish
- Advance Directives and Do Not Resuscitate Orders (American Academy of Family Physicians) Also in Spanish
- Living Wills and Advance Directives for Medical Decisions (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research) Also in Spanish
- Advance Care Planning for Serious Illness (Administration for Community Living) - PDF
- Advance Care Planning: Medical Issues to Consider (American Hospice Foundation)
- Making Medical Decisions for a Loved One at the End of Life (American College of Physicians) - PDF
- Advance Directives (National Cancer Institute) Also in Spanish
- Advance Directives (American Cancer Society)
- Legal and Financial Planning for People with Alzheimer's Disease (National Institute on Aging) Also in Spanish
- Psychiatric Advance Directives: Getting Started (National Resource Center on Psychiatric Advance Directives)
Journal Articles References and abstracts from MEDLINE/PubMed (National Library of Medicine)
- Article: Perioperative Advance Directives: Do Not Resuscitate in the Operating Room.
- Article: Consultation before 'do not attempt resuscitation' orders.
- Article: A systematic review of the effects of advance care planning facilitators...
- Advance Directives -- see more articles
- Living wills -- see more articles
Find an Expert
- National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization
- State by State Info (Psychiatric Advance Directives) (National Resource Center on Psychiatric Advance Directives)
- Eldercare at Home: Advanced Directives (AGS Foundation for Health in Aging)