What is a Health Care Directive?
It is a form that lets you say what kind of medical treatments you do or do not want if you are terminally ill or permanently unconscious and cannot make decisions for yourself. A Health Care Directive also lets you write down your health care values.
What are health care values?
They are your wishes and preferences for health care, including your religious, ethical and personal preferences for care. They should guide health care decisions made for you when you cannot make decisions for yourself in all situations, not just if you are terminally ill or permanently unconscious. Some examples of what you can include are:
"I'm worried about having the feeling of choking. Please do anything you can to relieve me of that stress."
"I can tolerate a low level of pain – balance pain with keeping my brain clear."
"Quality of life is more important to me than getting a lot of medical care."
"What matters to me most is being in a hospital with excellent care."
"The ability to be in the outdoors is what makes life worth living for me. If my health condition prevents me from being outside at all, then I would no longer want to live."
"It is important to me to be able to recognize my family and say goodbye."
"I want to spend my last days at home."
"In my religion, we . . . (describe your religious traditions regarding health care).
"I love jazz music and would like to listen to it whenever possible."
Does my Health Care Directive form say who will make decisions for me?
No. You will also need a Durable Power of Attorney form. A power of attorney form lets you choose a trusted friend or relative to help you with your health care decisions.
Can I still make my own decisions?
Yes. You can still make your own health care decisions if you are capable. You can also change or cancel your directive at any time.
Does my Health Care Directive form need to be notarized?
You should sign your Health Care Directive form in front of a notary. If you cannot find a notary, you can sign in front of two "disinterested" witnesses.
What should I do after I sign it?
You should give it to your medical provider, your health care agent, and a trusted friend or relative.
You should also ask your local hospital if they will put it on file for you.
Are there other kinds of directives?
Yes. There are health care directives that let you say what kind of care you want if you have a mental health disability or dementia. See Dementia Directive and Mental Health Advance Directive.
What if I need legal help?
Visit Northwest Justice Project to find out how to get legal help.