Nurse and elderly woman - Creative Commons general license by dno1967bAdvance directives: Making sure you get the treatment you want

Posted October 14, 2015

The onset of a serious illness or injury that leaves you unable to communicate can potentially make it impossible to ensure that your wishes are carried out. Even if you believe family members and those closest are on the same page with you, it’s simply not the same as being in control.

The time to state your wishes and ensure that they are followed is before an emergency strikes, says A Guide for a Better Ending from the Central Massachusetts Partnership to Improve Care at the End of Life.

According to the guide, taking time while you’re healthy to discuss your values, beliefs, and choices for medical treatment—should you become seriously ill—will help you to think through and make thoughtful decisions about how you would like to be treated. This process will help you create written and verbal instructions, usually called advance directives, which are intended to ensure your wishes are known and implemented.

Important documents

A health care proxy is a legal document allowing you to designate an individual, known as a healthcare agent, to make health care decisions on your behalf in the event that you are unable to do so. The agent may be a trusted family member, friend, attorney, or other designated person of your choice. A heath care proxy may also be named by a medical or health care power of attorney.

A living will is a written statement of your wishes for medical treatment and end of life care in the event that you are unable to make healthcare decisions or communicate them directly. It may include provisions instructing physicians of the circumstances in which you wish treatment to be withheld or withdrawn.

In Massachusetts, health care instructions are sometimes recorded on a living will form known as a personal wishes statement, which was developed by the Central Massachusetts Partnership to Improve Care at the End of Life.


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The information written about in this blog is not intended to be medical advice. Please seek care from a medical professional when you have a health concern.