Advance Healthcare Directive

Have you thought about your preferences for medical care? An advance healthcare directive will inform your loved ones and your doctor of your wishes if you’re unable to express them.

Under California law, an advance healthcare directive is a form you complete that ensures your healthcare wishes are known and considered if you become unable to make these decisions yourself.

Ensuring Your Quality of Life

By specifying your preferences in advance, it assures you have the quality of life that’s important to you and saves your loved ones from making critical medical decisions for you. An advance healthcare directive form details healthcare preferences such as the types of special treatment you want or don't want at the end of life, and your wishes for diagnostic testing, surgical procedures, cardiopulmonary resuscitation and organ donation.

An advance healthcare directive also allows you to appoint another person as your healthcare agent, also known as your durable power of attorney for healthcare. Your agent will have legal authority to make decisions about your medical care if you become unable to make these decisions yourself. Although you don’t have to assign an agent, doing so can ensure someone you trust can participate in decisions regarding your healthcare.

Free, Personalized Assistance

Through the Health Library & Resource Center, we offer free consultations to help you create this important document.

Our professionally trained volunteers will:

  • Answer your questions about the process.
  • Clarify the medical and legal language.
  • Explain the importance of selecting your healthcare agent.
  • Help you identify your personal healthcare wishes.
  • Assist you in completing the appropriate legal advance healthcare directive forms.
  • Witness your signature and provide appropriate copies for your agent (or agents) and doctors.

To schedule a 60-minute appointment for assistance, call:

Specifying Your Preferences

In addition to completing an advance healthcare directive, other legal documentation can help communicate your healthcare preferences, including:

  • Physician order for life-sustaining treatment (POLST)  – A form used to specify the level of care you want to receive regarding resuscitation (CPR), medical treatment and nutrition. These preferences must be followed in the hospital, as well as by emergency professionals if you call 911. An advance healthcare directive reflects your choices for hypothetical conditions that may occur in the future, while a POLST reflects your choices appropriate for your current health condition.
  • Living will – Describes your wishes about life-sustaining procedures for life-threatening conditions (when you’re terminally ill or in a vegetative state).

It’s important to create these documents and take them with you when you go to the hospital. Make sure you talk to your family members and your doctor about your preferences and that they’re aware you’ve prepared these documents.