What is an Advance Directive?

Information on Advance Directives

If you were ever unable to speak for yourself, who would speak for you?

Your physicians need this information. The easiest way to provide this is with an Advance Directive document.

What is an Advance Directive?

An Advance Directive is a document which enables you to name, in advance, someone to speak for you if you were ever in a condition where you were unable to express your wishes.  In addition to naming a person to speak on your behalf, you may—if you choose—indicate your wishes about medical care at the end of life.  Some people have strong feelings about whether they would want to be maintained on life support if they were dying.  If you have strong feelings one way or another about your wishes, you can indicate your wishes in your Advance Directive.

Do I need an attorney to complete an Advance Directive?

In Virginia, you do not need an attorney—or even a notary—to complete an Advance Directive.  Just two witnesses.  Your family may witness the document, even if they are listed as decision makers on the directive.  Or, our office staff can witness the document for you.

What if I change my mind about my wishes?

An Advance Directive form is a revocable document, which means that you can change your mind at any time.  And remember, the document would only be used in a situation in which you were unable to speak for yourself.

If I have questions about completing an Advance Directive, where can I get help?

Your physician or health care team may be able to answer your questions.  Additional support is available through social workers at cancer centers and at organizations like Life with Cancer.  At Virginia Cancer Specialists, you may also choose to make an appointment to speak with our palliative care physicians or our social worker.  Other resources may be found at www.nhdd.org

Planning ahead will help to support family and friends.  A modest amount of advance planning will enable improved decision making.   Although your physicians can usually speak directly with you about medical decisions as they arise, it is helpful to consider your wishes in advance of a crisis.

What should I do with the Advance Directive form after I complete it?  Bring a copy to our office so that we may scan it into your health care record.  Discuss your wishes with your physician or provider.  You should also provide copies to your primary care physician and to involved family.