Definition: Health Care Directive

A health care directive, sometimes referred to as a “living will” or a “directive to physicians,” allows you to record your wishes with regard to what life-sustaining treatment you wish to receive in the event that you are later diagnosed with a terminal condition (and are unable to communicate) or are in a permanent unconscious state, with no reasonable probability of recovering. If you have executed a health care directive and enough time has passed to enable your physicians to diagnose you as having such a condition, medical personnel can refer to the health care directive to find out whether you wish to continue receiving life-sustaining treatment, such as a feeding tube, intravenous fluids, or a medical ventilator. A health care directive may direct that under such circumstances, life-sustaining treatment be removed and that you be permitted to die.

You may designate an agent in your health care directive to enforce the document when the need arises. To designate a person to make other types of health care decisions for you in the event that you are unable to decide for yourself, consider executing a durable power of attorney for health care.