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Living Wills and Advance Care Plans
last updated:
Wed, 11/24/2010 3:28 PM

The most common types of Advance Directives are Living Wills and Advance Care Plans. Completing one of these can be one of the best gifts you can give your family and friends. In my practice, I have frequently seen people struggle with making health care decisions for their loved ones. Those charged with making decisions for someone else feel obligated to follow the patients’ wishes, but many times they may not be certain what those wishes may be. Advance Directives can ease the burden by providing direction for those who may be our decision-makers.

A Living Will is a legal document in which a person expresses in advance his or her wishes concerning life support and care, and can designate who is to make decisions. The Living Will is usually written with the assistance of an attorney and can be long and difficult to read.

The Advance Care Plan (ACP) is becoming the most popular way to communicate wishes regarding medical treatment. The ACP allows you to choose a decision maker and to share your perception of acceptable and unacceptable quality of life. Treatment options that can be addressed in the ACP include tube feedings, IV therapy, use of surgery, blood transfusions, and CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation). There is also an open space on the form where more detailed instructions can be included. The ACP requires either two (2) witnesses or be notarized. An attorney is not required.

Once the Advance Directive is completed, a copy should be given to your physician and to the person designated as the decision-maker. Keep a copy in your personal files. Most importantly, tell your family and/or friends that you have completed an Advance Directive and what decisions you have made.

You can print a copy of an Advance Care Plan and other useful documents from the state of Tennessee website:


Cathy Hupf, BSN, CHPN is the Clinical Director for Methodist Hospice in Memphis, Tenn. All opinions expressed here are those of their authors and not of their employer. Information provided here is for medical education only. It is not intended as and does not substitute for medical advice. Call 888.777.5959 for more information.


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Methodist Healthcare is an integrated health care delivery system, dedicated to the art of healing through our faith-based commitment to minister to the whole person. 1211 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee 38104 • (901) 516-7000