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What is an advance medical directive and a living will?

An advanced medical directive is a document that you say to the world, “I want these decisions made when I can no longer make these decisions.” They typically involve a living will. They can also involve a healthcare surrogate designation, that you’re saying, “This is the person that I would like to make my medical decisions when I am unable to make them.”

For a living will, you’re telling the world, “I want to be sustained on life-prolonging equipment or procedures,” or, “I do not want to have them.” It is best to have these documents in place in writing, because oral living wills are much more difficult to prove, and a lot more susceptible to question when you are in a condition and can no longer tell the world that you don’t want to be kept on life-prolonging procedures.