Directive to Physicians and Family or Surrogates (Living Will)

What is a Directive to Physicians and Family or Surrogates?

This is commonly referred to as a Living Will. The Directive to Physicians and Family or Surrogates (Directive) instructs physicians and hospitals on what actions to take if you have a terminal or irreversible condition and are unable to communicate or make decisions for yourself.

The form addresses two situations. One, where you have a terminal condition and life expectancy is limited to six months or less even with life-sustaining treatment. The second is where you have an irreversible condition that prevents you from caring for yourself or making decisions and, without life-sustaining treatment, death will occur. The Directive form defines Life-sustaining treatment and other important terms.

Why is it important to have a Directive?

One, if you don’t make decisions in advance, your family will have to, which places a great burden on them. Two, if there disagreement among family members, costly legal proceedings may be required to reach a decision.

Why is it important to discuss your Directive with your physician?

The choices you make in a Directive are presented as either/or choices: keep me comfortable or use life-sustaining treatments. In reality, there are various forms of treatment that fall within the definition of life-sustaining treatments that you may or may not wish to authorize. The examples used in the Directive include artificially administered nutrition and hydration and intravenous antibiotics.

The best way to understand the range of treatments that fall under life-sustaining treatments is to discuss the issue with your physician. That way you can add detail and direction in the Directive that best reflects the balance you wish to achieve.

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