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Frequently Asked Questions About Advance Medical Directives

Authored By: D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center


What are Advance Medical Directives?

Advance Medical Directives are specific instructions you can prepare to specify your medical care if you cannot do so in the future.

Advance medical directives include Living WillsDurable Powers of Attorney for Health Care, organ donation instructions, and do-not resuscitate orders.

Why should I have an Advance Medical Directive?

Advance Medical Directives can reduce:

  • Your worries about end of life decisions.
  • Unwanted medical interventions.
  • Stress on your family.
  • Legal concerns for everyone involved.
  • The likelihood that someone other than you, or a trusted person you select, will make healthcare/end-of-life decisions for you if youbecome incapacitated.

What happens if I do not make an Advance Medical Directive?

  • If you do not make these health-care decisions for yourself in advance, members of your family may be forced to make those decisions.
  • Your family members may not choose the same treatments you would choose.
  • The decision-making could be very stressful for your family members, and may cause conflict among your relatives.
  • If you have not put your wishes down IN WRITING, doctors may not follow your family's wishes.
  • Failure to note your wishes in writing in advance may result in the Court appointing a stranger to make healthcare and end-of-life decisions for you.
  • The situation could become bogged down in court.

Where can I find more information about Advance Medical Directives?

In addition to the information on this website, the following organizations have more information about Advance Medical Directives:

Also, any hospital or nursing home that receives Medicare or Medicaid funding is required to give all patients written information about Advance Medical Directives upon admission.

Last Review and Update: Mar 01, 2019
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