Published on July 17, 2018

Ask the doctor

with Donna Raziano, MD, Chief Medical Officer

What is an advance directive? Why do I need one?

Donna RazianoAn advance directive empowers you. It is a document that helps your family and doctors know your wishes about the care you would want if you were unable to decide for yourself.

Why might that be important? Like many people, you may feel strongly about certain care choices that may be offered during a serious illness or at the end of life. An advance directive gives you the power to accept or reject medical treatment. By making your preferences known, others will know to respect those wishes too.

The different types of advance directives are:

A living will. It puts into writing what medical care is wanted—and not wanted—if your recovery isn’t likely. For example, you can say whether you would want to be on a breathing machine or to have CPR to revive you.

A medical power of attorney. This appoints a trusted person to speak on your behalf on medical matters if you are unable to make decisions. This should be someone who understands and respects your wishes.

If you do write an advance directive, be sure to make multiple copies. Give one to the person you’ve chosen to make healthcare decisions for you and one to your primary care doctor. And bring a copy with you if you have to go to the hospital.

The time to make an advance directive is before a crisis happens. They do not have to be complicated legal documents. Free standard forms are available from various organizations. 

Mercy LIFE helps all program participants arrange their advance directives through a team of licensed social workers and physicians. Your wishes, both medically and spiritually, can be discussed. To learn more about the Mercy LIFE program and its social services, call 215.339.4747.