Advanced Directives

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Advanced directives or an advance care plan are legal papers. These papers tell your family and healthcare team your medical wishes. They are used in case you cannot make a medical decision. For example, if you are unconscious, your healthcare team and family will follow your advanced directives.

Advanced directives may differ by state. Your hospital or treatment center can give you the forms. Be sure to give your family members and healthcare team a copy of your advanced directives. If you change your mind about the kind of treatment you prefer, you can change your advanced directives.

Advanced directives may include living wills, medical power of attorney, or DNR orders. Here is a list of things to consider for your advance care plan:

  • Life support or use of equipment such as dialysis machines, ventilators, and respirators
  • DNR (Do Not Resuscitate)
    • DNR orders tell your healthcare team not to do CPR if your heart or breathing stops.
      • CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation)
        • First aid used when your heart or breathing stops. CPR can include chest compressions, electric shock, or medication.
  • DNI (Do Not Intubate) orders
    • DNI orders tell your healthcare team not to put a tube through your nose or mouth to help you breathe.
  • Artificial nutrition and hydration
    • If you are unable to eat or drink, your healthcare team will provide you with nutrition and fluids through an IV or feeding tube.
  • Treatment of new conditions
  • Organ and tissue donation
  • Medical Power of Attorney
    • Medical power of attorney lets you name another person, such as a family member or close friend, who can make decisions about your medical care if you cannot.
    • This may also be called a healthcare proxy, appointment of healthcare agent, or durable power of attorney.
    • Most states will not allow anyone on your healthcare team to be your medical power of attorney.

A cancer diagnosis can be a stressful time. It may be scary to consider these issues before you are very sick. However, it is important to think about these issues early. You will not want to deal with them when you are feeling very ill.