Advance Directive, Also known as a Living Will
An advance directive notifies your caregivers what kind of treatment you would like to have if you lose the ability to make medical decisions (for instance, if you become comatose or were in a persistent vegetative state). Many hospitals discuss advance directives with their patients at the time of the patient’s admission.
There are two common types of advance directives. The durable power of attorney for health care allows you to name an attorney-in-fact for health care decisions (also called a “proxy” or “advocate”) who will make decisions on your behalf regarding what treatment you do, or do not, want.
The other advance directive, the living will, contains a set of instructions to health care providers to be followed in the event that you cannot communicate your wishes for yourself. A living will usually sets out specific directions as to the course of treatment that your caregivers should take, or, perhaps most importantly, sets out the treatments you wish to forbid your caregivers to undertake. These instructions are to be followed if you are unable to give informed consent due to incapacity.
A living will is an important tool for both your peace of mind and that of your family. With a living will, both your family and your doctors know what your wishes are. It can save you from subsisting in a state that you would never want to be in, and it can save your loved ones the painful burden of making end-of-life decisions on your behalf.