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A Resource Guide for Patients & Visitors

Living Will 

The hospital admission staff will ask you if you have completed a Living Will and Medical Power of Attorney. If you have, please bring the documents in so the staff can photocopy them and place them on the chart. If you have not completed one, staff in the hospital have forms that you may complete and can be witnessed by our security staff. For clarification of these documents and their purpose, please read the following. 

1. What is an Advance Directive? 

A: An advance directive is a document in which you give instructions about your health care, what you want done or not done, if you can't speak for yourself. It's called an "advance directive" because you choose your medical care "in advance", before you become seriously ill. 

2. What is a Living Will? 

A: A living will is one form of advance directive. It usually comes into effect if you are terminally ill or have an incurable condition such as a permanent coma or persistent vegetative state. A living will tells your doctor, family and loved ones what kind of medical care you want and don't want. You can give directions about when you want your life prolonged and when you want life-support. 

3. What is a Health Care (Medical) Power of Attorney? 

A: A health care (medical) power of attorney lets you name someone to make medical decisions for you if you are unconscious or unable to make medical decisions for yourself for any reason. A health care (medical power of attorney can be part of another advance directive form, such as a living will, or may be a separate document. The person you appoint to make decisions for you when you cannot is called an "agent." 

4. Does an agent appointed in a Health Care (Medical) Power of Attorney need to be a resident of the state in which you live? 

A: No, but they need to be available if a medical crisis occurs. 

5. When does a Living Will or Health Care (Medical) Power of Attorney become effective? 

A: Any advance directive, including a living will and a health care (medical) power of attorney, has no legal effect unless and until you lack the capacity to make health care decisions or to give consent for care. Neither the appointed health care (medical) power of attorney, nor a written instruction can override your currently expressed choice.