Navigating the alphabet soup of advanced directives

There are a lot of little things a novice health care practitioner has to keep in mind when working in a hospital setting for the first time. I recently was taught a very difficult lesson about advanced directives.

CPR? Not if there is a DNR.


There may be nothing more difficult than doing nothing. However, an advance directive is just that: they are the wishes of the patient when they become unable to make medical decisions for themselves.

There are a few types of advanced directives and the American  Cancer Society has a nice in-depth description here: ACS Advanced Directives. However, here is an overview:

Types of advance directives vary based on state law and individual preferences within the states’ legal requirements. The 2 most common types of advance directives are the living will and the durable power of attorney for health care. 

  • Living Will : is a document that becomes effective when you are no longer able to make health care decisions for you self and your physician has diagnosed you with a terminal illness, an end-stage condition, or as being in a permanent vegetative state.
  • The power of attorney is a document that allows someone else that you know and trust the power to “step into your shoes” and make decisions when you are unable.

Advance directives can also include extra instructions about your health care decisions. For instance, they allow you to specify when you do not want to be resuscitated or if you want to make organ or tissue donations.

And as always, I guess this is another opportunity for me to make my case for becoming an organ donor, if you aren’t already.

Donate Life

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