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Advanced Directives

Learn more about advanced directives and why every patient should have one to ensure they get the care they desire and on their terms.

Make your health care wishes known and honored

While you may have discussed your health care preferences with loved ones, having an advance directive helps ensure your health care wishes are carried out to your specifications.

Baptist Cancer Center encourages patients to have an advance directive in place so the right care can be administered uninterrupted — and to relieve loved ones of making difficult decisions about your care.

What are advance directives?

Advance directives are legally binding documents that provide instructions for medical care. These documents only go into effect when you are unable to communicate your wishes or authorize a procedure yourself.

The two most common kinds of advance directives are:

  • A living will, a legal document that explicitly states how you want to be treated and to what lengths you want doctors to go to save your life. In your living will, you can be very specific about the treatments you want to receive and those you do not.
  • A durable power of attorney for health care, a legal document that names a proxy to make your health care decisions for you. You can choose anyone to be your proxy, just be sure they know what your wishes and values are.

Such advance directives are good to have in place even if you are not a cancer patient because they can provide guidance and protect your rights and wishes if something unforeseen occurs, such as an auto accident, stroke or other serious medical condition that leaves you unable to communicate.

What happens if you don't have an advance directive?

If you can't make your own medical decisions or communicate them, state laws will determine who may make medical decisions on your behalf. Usually, this responsibility falls on your spouse, parents or children if they are adults — even if they are unfamiliar with your wishes. If you're not married and haven't named your partner as your proxy through an advance directive, it is possible this person will be excluded from making decisions for you.

Talk to your nurse navigator about advance directives

The best time to learn more about advance directives and put one in place is when you are well enough to make your decisions known. Your Baptist Cancer Center nurse navigator can help you connect with a legal professional who specializes in advance care planning.