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JAMA Patient Page
February 24, 2015

Advance Directives

JAMA. 2015;313(8):868. doi:10.1001/jama.2015.133

Advance directives help your family and your doctors respect your health care wishes.

Advance directives are written instructions that you prepare to help guide your medical care. They apply in certain situations, such as if you are terminally ill or severely injured. Advance directives take effect when your doctor determines that you are no longer capable of making decisions about your own medical care.

One common directive is a living will. In a living will, you define what medical treatments you want and do not want for yourself. These treatments can include things like cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), mechanical ventilation (a “breathing machine”), medications, feeding tubes, artificial nutrition, dialysis, and intravenous (IV) fluids.