An “advance health care directive,” also known as a living will or advance directive, provides a legal mechanism for individuals to specify what actions should be taken for their health in the event that they are no longer able to make such decisions due to illness or incapacity. These instructions can prevent the need for anyone to “guess” what to do. By appointing a person or persons in this capacity, individuals can let their physician, family and/or friends know their health care preferences, including the types of special treatment they may want at the end of life, their desire for diagnostic testing, surgical procedures, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, and/or organ donation.
Although requirements sometimes differ from state to state, on December 1, 1991, the federal Patient Self-Determination Act (PSDA) went into effect. PSDA requires health care institutions to ask all adults admitted as inpatients whether they have an advance directive, and to inform these patients of their right to refuse treatment. The PSDA and advanced directive regulations nationwide assume that patients want, need, and appreciate information about medical technological intervention. It further assumes that health professionals and institutions will respect those decisions. … Read more →