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Ask the Medical Expert Archives 2000-2004

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Advance Directives
April 2000

Q. Should I have an "advance directive?"

A. An advance directive is simply a way for you to have control of medical decisions that will be made if you were unable to make them yourself. Take, for example, the possibility that you are unconscious from an auto accident or from a stroke. Should the doctors treat you aggressively, giving you all indicated treatments, or would you prefer a less aggressive approach? If you don't have an advance directive, the doctors have to use their own judgement or the judgement of whomever they deem the best judge of what you want. With the advance directive, you stay in control.

Advance directives are very powerful but they are often misunderstood. A great place to learn more about advance directives is http://www.abanet.org/elderly/myths.html. Here an attorney discusses 10 myths of advance directives such as Written Advance Directives Are Not Legal in Every State, I need a lawyer to do an Advance Directive, and doctors and other health care providers are not legally obligated to follow my Advance Directive.

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