What is an advance directive?

One thing people can be sure of in life is that we can’t ever be 100 percent sure of what will happen in life. We all have certain hopes and wishes for our futures, and many of us feel a better sense of peace knowing we have planned for it as best we can. An important area of concern that can contribute to that peace of mind is addressing how we wish to be treated if we are incapacitated in some way.

A legal document designed to help communicate a person’s wishes about medical treatment in the event he or she can’t make those decisions because of illness or injury is available. It is known as an advance health care directive. It is also referred to as a living will. Based on personal values, the directive sets out in writing someone’s treatment choices and preferences. It is prepared with professional advice and provided to your physicians, other health care providers, hospitals and family members.

The advance directive may specify that if a physician determines an illness is terminal, it is the signer’s request that all treatments other than those utilized for comfort be stopped. Alternatively, it can direct a health care provider to sustain life by whatever means possible. The same distinctions may be made if injury or other condition is irreversible in the opinion of doctors according to prevailing medical expertise, and treatment decisions for oneself or self-care are no longer possible.

Acceptable, particular treatments to be provided or not to be administered may be included. Physician input as to any additional specifications is helpful. If a separate Medical Power of Attorney doesn’t exist naming someone to make medical decisions on behalf of the signer, the advance directive may include this designation.

As with most other estate planning documents in Texas, the advance directive form is signed before witnesses and follows state guidelines regarding options and content. Advance health care directives are suggested for every adult’s protection, and will ensure to the extent possible that personal wishes are followed.

Source: Texas Government, “Texas Living Will Directive Form,” accessed May. 21, 2015