A Look at Advance Directives

September 9, 2020


John Lyon
Strategic Communications Manager

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Taking control of your health and having an end-of-life plan is always an important conversation. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s even more important. Medical technology has allowed healthcare providers to prolong life beyond what was possible in past eras; if a person’s wishes are not known before the person becomes incapacitated or unconscious, family members may face difficult decisions about how far medical treatment should go and when it should end. Recognizing this, policymakers have enacted laws allowing individuals to make decisions in advance about their treatment.

Our new explainer looks at advance directives, which are legal documents that protect a patient’s right to refuse or request medical treatment in the event the patient becomes terminally ill, mentally incapacitated, or permanently unconscious.

An advance directive also allows for the designation of a healthcare proxy, or surrogate, to make decisions on behalf of the patient when these circumstances arise.

Topics covered in the explainer include:

  • What are advance directives?
  • How are they created?
  • What are the laws governing them?
  • Who creates them?
  • What are the benefits?
  • What are some problems or weaknesses with them?
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