Advance directives

Everyone has the right to make decisions about his or her own health care. This includes deciding when and if you want medical treatment to go on or to stop. You have the right to accept or refuse treatments, even treatments that will prolong your life. One way to hold onto your rights is by putting decisions about future health care in writing. This is called an advance directive. An advance directive is a legal paper. It states your wishes about health care choices. Or it can name someone else to make those choices if the time comes that you cannot do so yourself. Doctors follow your advance directive if you can’t make medical decisions because of an illness or injury.

Advance directives can only be used for decisions about medical care. Other people cannot use them to control your money or property. Advance directives take effect only if you can’t make your own decisions. Others can and may have to make health care decisions for you if you don’t have an advance directive. An advance directive helps you keep some control over these decisions. For more information, please see Advance Directives.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team
Our team is made up of doctors and master’s-prepared nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Last Medical Review: February 7, 2014 Last Revised: March 6, 2014

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