Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Advanced Health Care Directive Definition:

A document which includes directions about preferences for health care treatment.

Also known as an advance directive or an advanced health care directive and also a living will.

The written and document is signed by a capable adult and it includes general or specific instructions or directions about that adult's preferences for health care or treatment in anticipation of an event when such care or treatment may be offered and that adult may not be then able to give instructions or even if some such other adult is available, to remove the decision from any other person and to let medical decision flow from the patient's instructions as set out on the healthcare directive.

Writing in GPSolo, attorney L. Rush Hunt advised:

"The primary considerations in an advanced health care directive are obvious and include naming the individual health care decision maker, deciding if an alternate is needed, and if so, naming that individual.

"Then decisions must be made as to what health care powers are granted and, more importantly the extent to which end-of-life decisions can be made. These decisions involve consideration of a number of factors, including the use and withdrawal of respirators and nutrition and hydration, and if death is imminent, whether organ donation, on transplants, or donation of one's body for medical and scientific research is appropriate.,i addition to a well prepared legal document, it is important that a person's desires not only are stated in the legal document but also are explained personally to the health care decision maker.

"All family members should be aware of who the decision maker is, unless there are extenuating family circumstances that justify withholding this information from the family."

Here are some sample inclusions in an advance health care directive:

"I wish to state my strongly held beliefs and convictions regarding life-sustaining treatment. I believe that if death is imminent, it should be allowed to come mercifully and painlessly.

"I have made this advance directive, in part, to ease any emotional anguish of those who have to determine if intervention should be undertaken and to place the responsibility for the decision solely upon myself.

"If there is no reasonable expectation of my recovery from extreme physical or mental disability and my death is otherwise imminent, I want to be allowed to die and instruct my health care provider not to keep me alive by artificial means or “heroic measures”. In those circumstances, my care is to be limited to support and comfort only and I refuse consent to any active resuscitation.

"I consent to my health care provider administering medication to me to alleviate my suffering even though this may hasten my death."1


  • Continuing Legal Education Society of BC, Wills Precedents (Vancouver: 2011) - NOTE 1.
  • Hunt, Rush, Planning Your Death, 25 GPSolo 48, October/November 2008, page 47
  • Krohm, Carol and Summers, Scott, Advance Health Care Directives (Chicago: American Bar Association, 2002)

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