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advanced care directives

Alternative Names 
Advance Directives , Enduring Power of Attorney , Do Not Resuscitate orders , DNR orders , organ donation , verbal directions for future care

Advanced Care Directives provide directions regarding future medical care. The directives are necessary in case an individual becomes unable to make decisions or communicate decisions about his or her care due to severe or terminal illness, injury, loss of consciousness or other medical conditions.

What is the information for this topic? 

Advanced care directives allow for individuals who have close relationships with the person who becomes incapacitated, or who provide healthcare to that person, to understand that person's wishes in regard to medical care, should the need arise.

Advanced Care Directives help to prevent doctors from treating someone solely to protect themselves against potential lawsuits. The directives also help to discourage use of expensive or aggressive treatments that may not be desired by the individual who is unable to voice his or her own preferences about treatment.

Advanced care directives are written legal documents conveying what a person wishes should he or she become incapacitated, terminally ill, or incapable of communicating. It can specify procedures and treatments that an individual desires and procedures and treatments that an individual does not desire. Procedures often mentioned in Advanced Care Directives include cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), feeding tubes, ventilators for breathing support, as well as less aggressive treatments such as fluid replacement or antibiotic therapy.

Another type of advanced directive is a Enduring Power of Attorney. This legal document allows an individual to appoint someone to make healthcare decisions in case he or she becomes incapacitated or disabled.

Copies of Advanced Directives or Enduring Power of Attorney are readily available and are handled by solicitors who are familiar with specific state laws that apply to these written documents. It is helpful to tell relatives or close friends about the existence of these documents, and to inform relatives or close friends about any preferences in regard to organ donations.

Author: James Broomfield, MD
Reviewer: eknowhow Medical Review Panel
Editor: Dr John Hearne
Last Updated: 26/10/2004
Potential conflict of interest information for reviewers available on request

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