Written advance directives are legal in many countries; laws and forms, however, vary country to country.
General types of advance directives:
1. Health care agent (“power of attorney for health care”, “health care proxy”) - a document in which the patient appoints someone to make decisions about his/her medical care if he/she cannot make those decisions.
2. Living will (“health care directive”) - a written document in which a patient's wishes regarding the administration of medical treatment are described if the patient becomes unable to communicate in the setting of a serious or terminal medical condition.
3. POLST – a portable document of physician/provider medical orders, often limiting (or no) certain unwanted treatments in patients near the end-of-life.
Some common misunderstandings that create barriers to properly completing and implementing advance directives are:
1. Many physicians believe it is not appropriate to begin advance directive planning on an outpatient basis
2. Many people believe that having a financial power of attorney means a separate medical power of attorney is unneeded.
3. Many physicians and patients feel that having an advance directive means "don't treat.”
4. Patients often fear that once a person names a proxy in an advance directive, they lose control of their own care.
5. Many people believe that only old people need advance directives
6. Many people believe (hope) that having an advance directive will save their family from difficult decisions.
See reference for more information about overcoming misunderstanding barriers.
Adapted from Warm E, Rosielle DA. Myths about advanced directives. Palliative Care Network of Wisconsin. Fast facts and concepts #12. Internet. Accessed on January 8, 2019.