What is an advance directive?
A health care directive is a written document that informs others of your wishes about your health care. It allows you to name a person ("agent") to decide for you if you are unable to decide. It also allows you to name an agent if you want someone else to decide for you. You must be at least 18 years old to make a health care directive.
Why is it important to have an advance directive?
An advance directive is important if your attending physician determines you can't communicate your health care choices (because of physical or mental incapacity). It is also important if you wish to have someone else make your health care decisions on your behalf.
How do I make an advance directive?
There are forms online for advance directives. You don't have to use a form, but your advance directive must meet the following requirements to be legal in Minnesota:
- Be in writing and dated.
- State your name.
- Be signed by you or someone you authorize to sign for you, when you can understand and communicate your health care wishes.
- Have your signature verified by a notary public or two witnesses.
- Include the appointment of an agent to make health care decisions for you and/or instructions about the health care choices you wish to make.
Before you prepare or revise your directive, you should discuss your health care wishes with your doctor or other health care provider.
What can I put in an advance directive?
You have many choices of what to put in your advance directive. For example, you may include:
- The person you trust as your agent to make health care decisions for you. You can name alternative agents in case the first agent is unavailable, or joint agents.
- Your goals, values and preferences about health care.
- The types of medical treatment you would want (or not want).
- How you want your agent or agents to decide.
- Where you want to receive care.
- Instructions about artificial nutrition and hydration.
- Mental health treatments that use electroshock therapy or neuroleptic medications.
- Instructions if you are pregnant.
- Donation of organs, tissues and eyes.
- Funeral arrangements.
- Who you would like as your guardian or conservator if there is a court action.
You may be as specific or as general as you wish. You can choose which issues or treatments to deal with in your advance directive.
What should I do with my advance directive after I have signed it?
You should inform others of your advance directive and give people copies of it. You may wish to inform family members, your health care agent or agents, and your health care providers that you have a health care directive. You should give them a copy. It's a good idea to review and update your directive as your needs change. Keep it in a safe place where it is easily found.
This information is not specific to your child. If you have questions, contact your health care provider, attorney, or:
Minnesota Board on Aging Senior LinkAge Line®
A suggested health care directive form is available at Minnesota Board on Aging.
This page is not specific to your child, but provides general information on the topic above. If you have any questions, please call your clinic. For more reading material about this and other health topics, please call or visit Children's Minnesota Family Resource Center library, or visit www.childrensmn.org/educationmaterials.
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