What is an advance directive?by William Kay, MD on 04/19/12
An advance directive (sometimes referred to as a Living Will) is a set of instructions. These are instructions that you decide “in advance” of a situation where you will not be able to communicate your own wishes. It may seem farfetched, but as a trauma surgeon, I can tell you that it is very common for folks to end up in situations throughout their life where they are unconscious or too dazed to speak on their own behalf.
In situations where you cannot speak on your own behalf, having advanced directives helps you, the medical team, and your family. Imagine having to decide if your spouse or sibling should be kept on life support or not. I have seen a lot of guilt and family disagreement over such issues. All which could have been avoided if the patient would have taken the time to have an advance directive created.
Advance directives are designed to make complex medical decisions. It is highly recommended that advance directives be created with the advice of either your doctor or a knowledgeable medical advocate.