directives are statements made by the patient that describe
the treatments that should or should not be given in the event
a medical situation arises which requires a decision about
therapy, and the patient is unable to speak for him or herself.
Patients can be sure that their wishes are followed by executing
advance directives. While laws vary
in each state, most recognize at least one of two advance
Health Care Proxy, also referred to as a "Medical/Durable
Power of Attorney for Health Care," is a legal form that authorizes
a person of the patient's choice to make health care decisions
for the patient if he/she is unable to do so.
The person who is appointed may be referred to as the patient's
health care agent, surrogate, attorney-in-fact, or proxy.
This individual can be a friend, family member, or partner.
It should be someone who is familiar with the patient's views
about medical care, including the role of life-sustaining
treatments like mechanical respiration, and will uphold his
or her wishes as medical situations arise.
In order to designate a health care agent, a form must be
filled out, which becomes a legally binding document. This
form must be signed by the patient, health care agent, and
a witness. After the proxy form is signed, hospitals, other
health care facilities, and all health care professionals
are legally obligated to follow medical instructions given
by the health care agent, if the patient is unable to communicate.
Agents can be changed at any time if the individual decides
that someone else would be better able to represent him or
her. It is important for everyone to have a copy of the patient's
Health Care Proxy, including his/her doctors and hospital,
and that it is in the patient's chart.
Care Proxy forms can be obtained from the hospital or by contacting:
A Living Will is a set of written instructions that outline
the patient's health care wishes at the end of life. If the
patient completes a Health Care Proxy form, but also has a
Living Will, the Living Will provides the instructions for
Choice in Dying/Partnership for Caring
1035 30th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20007
(800) 989-WILL (9455)
patients express their future wishes about medical treatment.
that patients will not be given medical treatments they
do not want.
pressure off family members if decisions must be made
about medical care and patients are unable to communicate.
can choose a person they feel will best represent their
can change living wills or health care proxies at any