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Sunday, July 4, 2010

Advance Directives

I know many people don’t want to think about their life coming to an end, but there are many things that you should think about in case you are too ill or hurt to express your wishes. Advance directives are legal documents that allow you to convey your decisions about end-of-life care ahead of time. They provide a way for you to communicate your wishes to family, friends and health care professionals, and to avoid confusion later on.

A living will tells how you feel about care intended to sustain life. You can accept or refuse some or all medical care. There are many issues to address, including

- The use of dialysis and breathing machines
- If you want to be resuscitated if 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 if you are unable to do so.

For more detailed information on advanced directives, check out the pamphlet End of Life Decisions: Advance Directives from the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization

To download state-specific advanced directives, visit http://www.caringinfo.org/stateaddownload, also from the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization.

For more ethical and legal information, check out Ethical and Legal Issues from the AGS Foundation for Health in Aging.


  1. Margie, Are there any suggestions for someone like me now who has no family, or does it even matter if I need one. Thanks AJ

  2. Hi AJ, everyone should have an advance directive, whether you have family or not. For those without family, I would suggest talking to a good friend that you trust and who shares the same values. Ask them if they would be your health care proxy and tell them exactly what you want or don't want done to you if you become unable to speak for yourself. It's a good idea tell your doctor of your wishes. If you've been a patient at your local hospital, it would also pay to have your advance directive on file with them so it's part of your medical record. I hope this helps. Margie