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What is a Health Care Directive?

A Health Care Directive is what many people will refer to as a "living will."

The Health Care Directive is a document which enables you to state your preferences for your health care if you cannot communicate what you want or make those decisions for any reason. It is much broader than a living will. In this document you can:

  • State your goals and wishes for your health care in a variety of situations
  • State your fears about your health care
  • Share your spiritual or religious beliefs and traditions
  • State your wishes with respect to pain management
  • State your preference with respect to quality of life as compared to quantity of life
  • Name one or more persons to be your health care agent to make medical decisions for you if you can't for any reason
  • State your views about how your medical condition might affect your family
  • State your wishes about where you would like to die
  • State your preferences with respect to organ donation
  • State your preferences with respect to treatment of your body on your death (burial vs. cremation)
  • State your wishes with respect to your funeral or memorial service
  • State where you wish to be buried

It is also possible to state your preference with respect to who will be your doctor or which hospital you prefer. We don't recommend that you make detailed statements with respect to naming a specific physician or hospital, however. Doing so could limit the ability of your health care agent to make the best possible choice for your health care. It is much better to make this document a general statement of your desires so decisions can be made taking into consideration all the facts and circumstances specific to your situation.

When you appoint a health care agent, you are giving that person the authority to make the following decisions for you if you can't:

Make health care decisions for you, including the ability to give, refuse or withdraw consent to any care, treatment, service or medical procedure. This might include deciding whether to start or stop life saving procedures or whether to use intrusive mental health treatment.
Choose your health care provider
Choose where you live and receive care where those decision relate to your health care
Review your medical records and provide those records to others with the same authority you have

If you wish to donate your organs, your loved ones will still need to make arrangements for disposition your body.

If you choose to donate your body to medicine for research purposes, it is still possible that your loved ones will need to make arrangements for disposition of your body. It is possible that your body will not be appropriate for donation for medical research.

If you do not have a Health Care Directive, the medical community will look to your next of kin to make decisions for you if you cannot. Sometimes "next of kin" will include more than one person and there may be a disagreement about what they think you would want. It is by far the wiser course to have a Health Care Directive.

More Information on Health Care Directives in Minnesota.

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