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How to Make Your Advance Directive Effective

How do I make my advance directive most effective?

There are several things you can do. But, they all begin with understanding the information we are providing you. Here are the things you can do to make your advance directive most effective.

  1. Meet with your family and/or significant others to give them a copy of your advance directive. During this meeting, let them discuss among themselves and with you any concerns they may have. The purpose of this meeting is for them to learn about your wishes/preferences.
  2. Give a copy of your advance directive to other persons outside your family who are important to you, such as your physician, attorney, minister, etc.
  3. Every 4-5 years, re-sign your advance directive and initial a new date. This gives assurance that your wishes have not changed over the years.
  4. Whenever you go to your physician or are admitted to a hospital, take a copy of your advance directive and ask that it be placed in your medical record.

When does my advance directive go into effect?

Once you have completed your advance directive, it does not go into effect until several things occur. First, you must not be able to speak for yourself, including writing or making signs that are understandable. Second, if your advance directive addresses end-of-life issues, as in a "Living Will" form of advance directive, then your physician must have diagnosed you with a terminal illness, an end-stage condition, or as being in a permanent vegetative state.

If you have a "Health Care Surrogate" form of advance directive, it goes into effect when you are unable to communicate.

When you are able to speak with a clear mind, even if you are dying and/or have an advance directive, your physician should talk with you about your treatment preferences and not turn to your advance directive for directions until you are incapacitated.