Advance care planning is a critical step in communicating and honoring healthcare preferences per the Uniform Healthcare Decisions Act, which recognizes the right of individuals to control their medical care autonomously or to elect another adult to make those decisions for them. Completion of these documents is the way the healthcare community knows about patients’ wishes after they are no longer able to communicate them themselves.
Each state has its own form for naming a health care proxy, completing a living will, and indicating code status—collectively known as advance directives. In many states, naming a health care proxy/power of attorney for healthcare and living will are combined in one form. Each state has specific regulations, making it important to understand your state’s requirements. For example, some states mandate the document be notarized while many require two witnesses. Several states stipulate the agent’s authority to discontinue life sustai ning treatment or execute a do not resuscitate order to be clearly stated in the document. Your state’s Attorney General typically oversees the creation and management of an Advance Directive form which includes all legal requirements.
If an individual has strong religious or cultural beliefs that impact end of life decision making, Beliefnet.com has resources for living wills which address religious preferences.
Code status documents, where an individual or their representative indicate preference for CPR and other life sustaining treatment, also vary by state. A version of the Physician Order for Life Sustaining Treatment (POLST) form are in use in 24 states and the District of Columbia. POLST.org has links to each state’s code status designation form.
Below are the state-approved advance directives by state. Organizations such as the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO) and Everplans.com have created documents which comply with each state’s rules. These forms are created to encompass specific state’s statutes for advance directives and are designed to be simple to use and execute. They are not designed to be replacements for legal advice and if the documents do not meet the personal needs of your client, they should be encouraged to seek legal advice to create an advance directive which meets their needs.