A health care directive allows you to make decisions about what medical treatment you would or would not like to receive in the future and communicate your wishes to your doctor and loved ones. Your health care directives take effect in the event that a medical condition robs you of your decision-making capacity.
The Mayo Clinic describes several different types of health care directives to help you decide which one you need. It is possible that you may need more than one.
1. Living will
A living will is a document that describes the type of medical treatment you would like to receive if you were to become incapacitated, as well as the treatments you would only want to receive under certain circumstances and those you would not want to receive under any circumstances.
2. Practitioner orders for life-sustaining treatment
If you have a terminal illness and are living out your days in a nursing home or hospital, you may have your physician may write out orders for life-sustaining treatment. A POLST affirms the instructions in your living will and goes on prominent display by your bedside.
3. Do not resuscitate or do not intubate orders
These are orders not to try to save your life by performing CPR on you or putting you on a mechanical ventilator to help you breathe. These instructions go in your living will, but you might want to have separate orders to make sure no one revives you against your wishes.
4. Power of attorney
Despite the different types of advance directives available, it is impossible to anticipate every possible scenario. A health care power of attorney grants someone close to you the authority to make medical decisions on your behalf in one of these situations.
The different types of health care directives do not contradict each other. Rather, they complement each other to communicate your wishes as clearly as possible to avoid confusion.