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What Is an Advance Directive?


It is a legal document that explains how you want medical decisions about you to be made if you cannot make the decisions yourself.  It is used to guide your health care team and loved ones when they need to make these decisions or to decide who will make decisions for you when you can’t. These medical decisions might include special actions or emergency care from your health care team. This document can help you think ahead of time about what kind of care you want.

They only apply to health care decisions and do not affect financial or money matters. The laws around them are different from state to state. Talk to your health care provider (or your lawyer) about filling out your advance directive when you are still healthy, in case you become too ill or are unable to make medical decisions for yourself in the future.

The Patient Self-Determination Act

The 1990 Patient Self-Determination Act (PSDA) encourages everyone to decide ahead of time about the types and extent of medical care they want to accept or refuse if they become unable to make those decisions due to illness.

The PSDA requires hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, home health agencies, hospice programs, and Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs):

  • To give patients information on their state laws about their rights to make decisions about their care.
  • To find out if patients have an advance directive.
  • To recognize the advance directive and honor the patient’s wishes.
  • To never discriminate against patients based on whether they have filled out an advance directive or not.

Health care facilities can’t require patients to have advance directives: It is the patient’s choice.

Read more related articles at:

Advance directives & long-term care

Advance Care Planning: Health Care Directives

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