Advance Directives

Know your choices and share your wishes

If you were struck with a sudden illness or in an accident that prevented you from making your own medical decisions, would it be important to you to have someone to make those decisions? The majority of people have not planned for this. Each state has its own laws, so be sure to review them on the state’s Department of Health website.

Learn about Advance Directives

Advance Directives plan for future medical care is a continual process, not an isolated event. Advance Care Planning assists you in preparing for a sudden, unexpected illness from which you expect to recover, as well as the dying process and, ultimately, death. It is a gift to you and your family, permitting peace of mind for you and your family by reducing uncertainty and helping to avoid confusion and conflict over your care. It applies only when the need arises, and you are unable to make your own health care decisions.   

Types of Advance Directives

You do not need a lawyer for these forms, and they do not need to be notarized. You must be at least 18 years of age, the documents must be properly signed, witnessed, and dated, and they must be available when needed (not in a safety deposit box). You should give a copy to your Healthcare Proxy, family, and doctor and keep a copy with you.               

  1. New York Health Care Proxy– Names someone to make decisions about your medical care any time you are unable to make your own medical decisions, not only at the end of life.  One of the strongest reasons for naming a spokesperson is to have someone who can respond flexibly to changes in your medical situation.  You do not need to add specific instructions to your Health Care Proxy except regarding artificial nutrition and hydration. 

Share your wishes with your healthcare spokesperson. Discuss your wishes with them often, particularly if your medical condition changes. Your spokesperson will ensure that your wishes are carried out based on your expressed and discussed values and beliefs. Discuss things such as:

  1. Will you respect my wants, even if you think they are foolish or unusual?
  2. Will you seek out information about my disease and what to expect as I get sicker?
  3. Your desire to be an organ donor. 
  1. New York Living Will– States your wishes about medical care in the event that you develop an irreversible condition that prevents you from making your own medical decisions. You may add specific instructions such as, “I want maximal pain medications, even if it hastens my death,” “I want to die at home,” etc. If you have appointed a spokesperson, it is a good idea to include a statement such as, “Any questions about how to interpret or when to apply my Living Will are to be decided by my spokesperson.” 
  1. Medical Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (MOLST)– Facilitates the communication of medical orders impacting end-of-life care for patients with advanced chronic or serious illness.  It is a bright pink medical order form signed by a physician that communicates your wishes regarding life-sustaining treatment to healthcare providers.  It is not intended to replace the Health Care Proxy and Living Will.  In contrast to the Health Care Proxy, the MOLST applies now and is not conditional on the patient losing the capacity to make complex medical decisions.  Includes Do Not Resuscitate and other Life Sustaining Treatment.

Checklist for Action

  1. Think about what is important and share it with your family.
  2. Choose a spokesperson and an alternate spokesperson.
  3. Discuss wishes with the spokesperson, doctor, family, and attorney.
  4. Discuss wishes regarding artificial nutrition and hydration with spokesperson.
  5. Complete NY Health Care Proxy.
  6. Document on the Health Care Proxy that the spokesperson knows your wishes regarding artificial nutrition and hydration.
  7. Document wishes regarding organ donation on Health Care Proxy, Driver’s license/ organ donor card.
  8. Complete NY Living Will.
  9. Give copies of NY Health Care Proxy and Living Will to spokespersons, family, doctor, and attorney.