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Advanced Medical Directives

Pennsylvania Attorneys Handling Advanced Medical Directives

Advance medical directives, also referred to as advanced directives, are legal documents designed to outline a person’s wishes and preferences in regard to medical treatments and interventions. When a patient is incapable of making his/her own medical decisions, a health-care proxy can act on the patient’s behalf to make decisions consistent with and based on the patient’s stated will. Advance directive policies may different from one state to another. Drafting a proper advance directive form may require assistance from your personal physician and an attorney. Advance directives are important documents that should be included with each individual’s personal medical records. Please contact our Philadelphia estate planning attorneys to learn more about their experience with Advanced Medical Directives and how they can help you with your estate planning needs. 

Advance directives: The term “advance directives” refers to treatment preferences and the designation of a surrogate decision-maker in the event that a person should become unable to make medical decisions on her or his own behalf.

Advance directives generally fall into three categories: living will, power of attorney, and health-care proxy.

Living will: This is a written document that specifies what types of medical treatment are desired should the individual become incapacitated. A living will can be general or very specific. The most common statement in a living will is to the effect that

if I suffer an incurable, irreversible illness, disease, or condition and my attending physician determines that my condition is terminal, I direct that life-sustaining measures that would serve only to prolong my dying be withheld or discontinued.

More specific living wills may include information regarding an individual’s desire for such services such as

analgesia (pain relief),


artificial (intravenous or IV) hydration,

artificial feeding (feeding tube),

Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR)

life-support equipment including ventilators (breathing machines),

do not resuscitate (DNR).

Health-care proxy: This is a legal document in which an individual designates another person to make health-care decisions if he or she is rendered incapable of making their wishes known. The health-care proxy has, in essence, the same rights to request or refuse treatment that the individual would have if capable of making and communicating decisions.

Durable power of attorney (DPOA): Through this type of advance directive, an individual executes legal documents that provide the power of attorney to others in the case of an incapacitating medical condition. The durable power of attorney allows an individual to make bank transactions, sign social security checks, apply for disability, or simply write checks to pay the utility bill while an individual is medically incapacitated.

DPOA can also specifically designate different individuals to act on a person’s behalf for specific affairs. For example, one person can be designated the DPOA of health-care or medical power of attorney, similar to the health-care proxy, while another individual can be made the legal DPOA.

The importance Of Having An Advance Directive

Advance directives were developed as a result of widespread concerns over patients undergoing unwanted medical treatments and procedures in effort to preserve life at any cost. As outlined in the following section (history of advance directives), remarkable efforts were made to institute advance medical directives as a component of medical care in the United States over the last few decades.

From a practical standpoint, medical directives and living wills facilitate a person’s medical care and decision making in situations when they are temporarily or permanently unable make decisions or verbalize their decisions. By having previously documented personal wishes and preferences, the family’s and physicians’ immense decision-making burden is lightened. At the same time, patient autonomy and dignity are preserved by tailoring medical care based on one’s own choices regardless of mental or physical capacity.

Instructive directives (advance directives, living wills, and health-care proxy designation) are completed by a person with decision-making capacity. They only become effective when a person loses his/her decision-making capacity (mentally incapacitated). While a person maintains ability to make decisions, he/she is the ultimate decision-maker rather than the health-care proxy or surrogate decision-maker.

Contact Our Attorneys Handling Advanced Medical Directives

Please click here to connect with our Philadelphia, Pennsylvania estate planning attorneys. With an office in Center City they serve the entire Philadelphia metro area and surrounding counties of Bucks, Delaware, & Montgomery.