The term Advance Directive refers to a document that you create and sign while you are mentally competent to state your wishes for future medical treatment and becomes effective when you are no longer able to make or communicate your own health care decisions. There are two components that make up an Advance Directive:
A Health Care Proxy, sometimes referred to as a Durable Power for Health Care, identifies another person to make medical decisions on your behalf with your physician should you become unable to make or communicate such decisions on your own. The Health Care Proxy is authorized by statute in Massachusetts. If you decide to designate a proxy (usually a family member or trusted friend), you should share your thoughts and beliefs regarding medical treatment with that person so that he or she will be best able to carry out your wishes.
A Living Will provides specific instructions regarding your wishes for your future medical care. Such a document should be developed following discussion with your physician. It then becomes part of your medical record. We encourage all patients, regardless of current age or health status, to consider the creation of both these documents.
Care Coordination is available to meet with individuals for help with questions or completing forms. To schedule an individual appointment, call 495-7872 or email CareCoordination@huhs.harvard.edu. Family members, or the person you are considering as your health care proxy, may join you.