An Advance Health Care Directive (or Advance Medical Directive) allows you to state what you want for your own medical care if you are unable to make decisions for yourself. You can:
- Direct that a specific procedure or treatment be provided, such as artificially administered hydration (fluids) or nutrition (feeding);
- Direct that a specific procedure or treatment be withheld; or
- Appoint a person to act as your agent in making health care decisions for you if it is determined that you are unable to make health care decisions for yourself. This includes the decision to make anatomical gifts of a specific part or parts of your body via organ and tissue donation, or of all of your body.
If you appoint a person to be your agent in an Advance Directive, that person has decision-making priority over any other individuals who could, by law, make health care decisions for you. For more information, visit the Code of Virginia portion of the Virginia General Assembly Home Page, and type in "54.1-2984" in the "Enter search phrase and click submit" box. You will get a page of search results, and clicking on "§ 54.1-2984" will display the text in that Code Section. Additional Code sections amended in 2010 on this topic include §§s 54.1-2982 (Definitions), 54.1-2983 (Procedure), 54.1-2983.2 (Capacity) and 54.1-2983.3 (Exclusions and Limitations of Advance Directives).
The Code of Virginia also contains the "suggested" text that can be used for an Advance Medical Directive in Virginia. Advance Directive forms can be completed without the assistance of a lawyer, but you may want to consult one to ensure that you have completed it correctly.
Each year in the United States April 16th is designated as Healthcare Decisions Day. This day is designed to raise public awareness of the need to plan ahead for healthcare decisions related to end of life care and medical decision-making whenever patients are unable to speak for themselves and to encourage the specific use of Advance Directives to communicate these important healthcare decisions. For more information and sample forms, please visit the Virginia State Bar web page.
The Commonwealth of Virginia has a statewide Advance Health Care Directive Registry (AHCDR). The secure registry, available to all legal Virginia residents, stores documents that detail and protect health care wishes in the event a person is unable to speak for themselves. These documents include a medical power of attorney, do-not-resuscitate orders, and other healthcare wishes. For more information please use this link: Advance Health Care Directive Registry.