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