Advance directive is a general term that refers to a person's verbal and written instructions about future medical care, in the event that the person becomes unable to speak for him or herself. Each state regulates the use of advance directives differently. Advance directives go into effect in the event of the individual’s incapacitation.
Living wills are a form of advance directives, which provide the patient’s desires and preferences for medical treatment when they are unable to communicate those desires on their own.
Generally a living will provides the opportunity for a person to put into writing his or her wishes about life-sustaining treatments if he or she becomes permanently unconscious or terminally ill and unable to communicate. Laws in different states differ, but the person may need to be declared permanently unconscious or terminally ill and unable to communicate by two physicians before the Living Will becomes effective.
A Health Care (or Medical) Power of Attorney is a type of advance directive that allows a person to appoint someone to make medical decisions for the person in the event that he or she is unable to do so.
A “do not resuscitate” order (DNR) is an advance directive which allows a person the option of not being resuscitated in the event of a cardiac or respiratory arrest. The patient can choose to die without heroic measures, and health care providers are provided with legal means to respect those wishes. It may be necessary to be enrolled in this program by a medical practitioner and have acceptable forms of DNR identification.
Organ and Tissue Donation is an advance directive for anyone who wishes to donate organs and/or tissues after their death. This is another conversation to have with your loved one, because decisions regarding organs and tissues very often have to be made and carried out immediately in order for the organs and tissues to be useable.
It is best to consult your attorney and inform your physician of your advance directives.