is a Health Care Directive?
health care directive is a written document that informs other of
your wishes about your health care. It allows you to name a person
("agent") to decide for you if you are unable to decide. It
also allows you to name an agent if you want someone else to decide
for you. You must be at least 18 years old to make a health
Have a Health Care Directive?
health care directive is important if your attending physician
determines you can't communicate your health care choices (because of
physical or mental incapacity). It is also important if you wish to
have someone else make your health care decisions. In some
circumstances, your directive may state that you want someone other
than an attending physician to decide when you cannot make your own
I Have a Health Care Directive? What Happens if I Don't Have One?
don't have to have a health care directive. But, writing one helps to
make sure your wishes are followed.
You will still receive medical
treatment if you don't have a written directive. Health care
providers will listen to what people close to you say about your
treatment preferences, but the best way to be sure your wishes are
followed is to have a health care directive.
if I am competent to make my own health care decisions?
you stipulate otherwise, your health care agent makes decisions for
you only if you are no longer able to make health care decisions for
I have filled out a Living Will, do I also need a DPAHC?
is a good idea to complete a DPAHC in addition to a Living Will, or
to combine them in one document. A Living Will usually allows you to
state your desires regarding life-sustaining treatment in the event
that you become terminally ill or permanently unconscious. Most
states include these types of instructions in their DPAHC forms. By
selecting a health care agent through a DPAHC, you ensure that
someone you trust will oversee decisions and implement your wishes
regarding any treatment, not just life-sustaining treatment.
should I choose as a health care agent?
should choose a person whom you trust, such as a spouse, partner,
family member or close friend. The person you choose should know your
personal values and beliefs. If possible, you will want to choose
someone who lives in your area in case he or she is called upon to
direct your treatment for an extended period of time. You will want
to discuss your health care wishes with your agent and be sure he or
she is willing to act on your behalf. Many states will not allow your
health care provider or anyone working in a health facility to be a
health care agent.
I choose an alternate health care agent?
You should choose at least one alternate person to act as your health
care agent in case your first choice is unable or unwilling to make
health care decisions for you.
do I execute a DPAHC?
must be at least 18 years of age and mentally competent to execute a
valid DPAHC. You must sign your DPAHC form. Most states will also
require qualified adult witnesses and/or a notary public to sign the
DPAHC, acknowledging that you are competent and acting under your own
volition. No attorney is required. If you are in a nursing home,
other witnessing requirements may apply.
Prepared My Directive in Another State. Is It Still Good?
prepared in other states are legal if they meet the requirements of
the other state's laws or the California’s requirements. But
requests for assisted suicide will not be followed.
If My Health Care Provider Refuses to Follow My Health Care
health care provider generally will follow your health
or any instructions from your agent, as long as the health care
follows reasonable medical practice. But, you or your agent cannot
request treatment that will not help you or which the provider cannot
provide. If the provider cannot follow your agent's directions about
life-sustaining treatment, the provider must inform the agent. The
provider must also document the notice in your medical record. The
provider must allow the agency to arrange to transfer you to another
provider who will follow the agent's directions.
If I've Already Prepared a Health Care Document? Is It Still
law provided for several other types of directives, including living
wills, durable health care powers of attorney and mental health
declarations. The law changed so people can use one form for all
their health care instructions. Older forms are still legal if they
followed the law in effect when written. They are also legal if they
meet the requirements of the new law (described above). You may want
to review any existing documents to make sure they say what you want
and meet all requirements.
Should I Do With My Health Care Directive After I Have Signed It?
should inform others of your health care directive and give people
copies of it. You may wish to inform family members, your health care
agent or agents, and your health care providers that you have a
You should give them a copy. It's a good idea to review and update
your directive as your needs change. Keep it in a safe place where it
is easily found.