Start of Main Content

Advance Health Care Directive

What is an advance health care directive?

An advance health care directive, often shortened to advance directive, is a legal document explaining how an individual wants their medical decisions to be made in the event they cannot make these decisions themselves.

Advance health care directives only apply to decisions regarding health care; they do not include financial matters.

The Patient Self-Determination Act (PSDA), which became effective in 1991, encourages early decision-making about the type and extent of medical care a patient would want someone to make on their behalf. With this act, hospitals, home health agencies, skilled nursing facilities, Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs), and hospice programs are required to:

  • Have knowledge of if the patient has an advance directive
  • Give patients information regarding the state laws on advance directives, since they vary from state-to-state
  • Recognize the advance directive and honor the wishes of the patient
  • Never discriminate based on whether a patient has an advance directive or not

Why are advance health care directives important for health care?

Advance directives are not required, but creating one allows a patient to determine what kind of care is executed and that healthcare providers, the care team, and family members are aware of and obey their wishes.

Additionally, the advance directives provide guidance not only for the decisions to be made but also for who is to make the decisions on the patient’s behalf.