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Advance directives

You may have thought about which friend or relative you would choose to make decisions for you if you become injured or sick. You may have even thought about what kinds of medical treatment you will want if you are terminally ill or in a coma. But have you written it down?

A power of attorney document allows you to choose a trusted friend or relative to help you with your healthcare. A healthcare directive tells your friends, family and medical providers what kinds of treatment you want if you cannot speak for yourself.

Power of Attorney for Healthcare

In a power of attorney for healthcare document, you choose someone you trust with your healthcare (your "agent") to act on your behalf and help you with healthcare decisions. You can give your agent the power to do things like access your medical records and approve medical treatment. If you make your power of attorney "durable," your agent can keep helping you even if you become sick or injured and cannot make decisions for yourself. You can still make your own decisions about your healthcare. You can change or cancel your power of attorney at any time.

Healthcare Directive

In a healthcare directive (also called a "living will"), you choose the end-of-life medical procedures you do not wish to have if you become terminally ill or permanently unconscious. The types of treatment you can reject include feeding tubes, ventilators, IV hydration and CPR. You can also express your general values regarding your healthcare in this document. You can still make your own decisions as long as you are able, and you can change or cancel the healthcare directive at any time.

Source: Seattle University School of Law Clinical Program & Northwest Justice Project