Apr 13, 2015 10:00 AM

Author: Cancer Learning Center

What are your concerns about your medical treatment if you could not speak for yourself? Who could speak for you? Which treatments fit best with your values?

These are hard questions to ask. But sharing specific answers to these questions with loved ones can give them a great deal of comfort at difficult times. You can share your wishes through a document called an advance health care directive.

What is an advance directive?

An advance directive is a document that allows you to write down your wishes about treatment if you ever become unable to speak for yourself.

The process starts when you begin thinking about your values and the treatments doctors might use at the end of your life. You can get information about these treatments from your cancer care team or the Cancer Learning Center at Huntsman Cancer Institute. You choose which treatments fit your values. Finally, you complete a document and share your wishes about treatment with your family and cancer care team.

Even if you have completed directives in the past, it is good to update your health care team and loved ones every year.

Who should have advance directives?

Everyone. Each of us may face a medical crisis. Illness or injury can make anyone unable to make health care decisions.

When should I do my advance directives?

Now. It is best to do it while you are able to think clearly and before a crisis happens. You will also want to review and update your directives every year.

What is power of attorney or a health care agent?

You can have another person make health care decisions for you if you are unable to speak for yourself. You can give that person authorization on a form called medical power of attorney. The person you choose is called an agent. This person can be a friend, family member, or licensed professional.

When choosing a health care agent, think of someone you feel close to—someone you trust to communicate with your doctors if you are not able.

Here are some documents to help you understand and prepare to complete an advance directive:

For more information about starting or updating your health care directive, contact the Cancer Learning Center by calling 1-888-424-2100 toll free.

Cancer Learning Center

Huntsman Cancer Institute

advance directive

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