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4 Different Types of Healthcare Directives

Healthcare directives are utilized by individuals to inform medical professionals how important decisions are to be made when the individual is unable to communicate those decisions themselves. Healthcare directives enable people to pre-determine the medical path that is to be taken should they face a life-ending medical situation. While many people can grant a medical power of attorney to a trusted family member or friend to make these decisions, there are other options available as well.

Living Will

Many people choose to create a living will in order to document how they want decisions to be made should they become incapacitated. The living will allows people to document what types of medical treatment or life sustaining measures they want employed to save or maintain their life. It can also limit the extent to which medical personnel can go before allowing the individual to expire.

Do Not Resuscitate

The Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order is used to inform medical personnel that the individual does not wish to have any type of life saving resuscitation, such as CPR, performed on them to bring them back to life from an arrested state. This is usually added to a medical record when a person is admitted to the hospital.

Power of Attorney

A medical durable power of attorney appoints a trusted individual to make important medical and financial decisions for the individual should they become incapacitated and not be able to make decisions for themselves.

A durable power of attorney allows individuals to go over various medical scenarios with the appointed individual and give them direction on how they want decisions made. The durable power of attorney gives individuals the peace of mind that someone they know and trust will be at their side making decisions based on the individual’s best interests, and not the medical staff's.

The Physician Order

Another option for individuals in many states is a Physician Order for Life Sustaining Treatment, which is similar to a DNR order but provides more detail on what exactly the individual allows the medical professionals to do or not do. As the American Cancer Society explains, this can include directives on:

  • feeding tubes,
  • the use of ventilators, or
  • limitations to the types of injections used to sustain life.

Individuals can use these orders to detail exactly which types of medical devices can or cannot be used, and how long they can be utilized for in order to sustain life.