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Advance Directives

Preparing and executing an Advance Directive (AD) is important  if you wish  to protect your autonomy should you become unable to make health-care decisions for yourself.  Each and every AD is an individualized statement , and should  be prepared with reason and deliberation.  Because an AD is an instrument of informed consent, it is necessary for you to familiarize yourself with all the necessary information available.  The following resources will help you in this process.

We hope this resource list will help you get started on your own advance care planning.  We have made every attempt to include the best possible resources, but keep in mind that no one form or resource will be perfect for everyone.  A library of related materials is also available if you want more detailed information about specific aspects end of life issues.

We encourage you to share meaningful conversations about your values and wishes before you complete your healthcare directive and appoint a durable power of attorney for healthcare.

  • Use one of the available guides from the Resources list.
  • Complete the Directive and Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare.
  • Distribute your Directive and take a copy with you when you go to the hospital or on a trip.  Ask your physician to write your instructions into your medical record, including the name of the relative or friend you’ve asked to act on your behalf.

From the Geisinger Health System

Advance Directives - Making Decisions About Your Care and Treatment: Your rights as a patient in Pennsylvania
(.pdf workbook and forms)

Pennsylvania Legal Information

Living Will (Advance Medical Directive) Statutes


The Medical Directive
The Medical Directive is a new, comprehensive living will that was originally published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. It allows you to record your wishes regarding your own medical treatment if you become too ill to think clearly and make your own medical decisions.

Hard Choices for Loving People
Providing a resource for professionals, patients and their families regarding end-of -life decisions. Whether the decision is about CPR, artificial feeding tubes, hospice, living wills, nursing home placement, ventilators or dialysis, these decisions can be difficult. This site will provide some guidance through education about related topics like bioethics, death and dying, and the emotional and spiritual issues surrounding the end of life.

Caring Connections Advance Care Planning

Five Wishes
From Aging with Dignity, The Five Wishes document helps you express how you want to be treated if you are seriously ill and unable to speak for yourself. It is unique among all other living will and health agent forms because it looks to all of a person's needs: medical, personal, emotional and spiritual. Five Wishes also encourages discussing your wishes with your family and physician.

View a non-printable example (.pdf) of Five Wishes.

Caring Conversations™ - Making Your Wishes Known for End-of-Life Care
From The Center for Practical Bioethics, Caring Conversations is a consumer education initiative that helps individuals and their families share meaningful conversation while making practical preparations for end-of-life decisions.

1. Use the Caring Conversations workbook to guide your planning and discussion.
          Download in English | Spanish (.pdf)

2. Then complete the Healthcare Directive and Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare.
          Download in English | Spanish (.pdf)

3. Distribute your directive and take a copy with you when you go to the hospital or on a trip

American Bar Association
Consumer’s Tool Kit for Health Care Advance Planning
Good advance planning for health care decisions is, in reality, a continuing conversation - about values, priorities, the meaning of one's life, and quality of life. To help you in this process, this tool kit contains a variety of self-help worksheets, suggestions, and resources. There are 10 tools in all, each clearly labeled and user-friendly. The tool kit does not create a formal advance directive for you. Instead, it helps you do the much harder job of discovering, clarifying, and communicating what is important to you in the face of serious illness.

There Are 10 "Tools" in This Tool Kit (.pdf):

Tool #1      How to Select Your Health Care Agent or Proxy
Tool #2      Are Some Conditions Worse than Death?
Tool #3      How Do You Weigh Odds Of Survival?
Tool #4      Personal Priorities And Spiritual Values Important To Your Medical Decisions
Tool #5      After Death Decisions To Think About Now
Tool #6      Conversation Scripts: Getting Past The Resistance
Tool #7      The Proxy Quiz For Family & Physician
Tool #8      What To Do After Signing Your Health Care Advance Directive
Tool #9      Guide For Health Care Proxies
Tool #10    Resources: Advance Planning For Health Care

Download the entire series as one file (click here).

A Catholic Guide to End-of-Life Decisions
From The National Catholic Bioethics Center, this guide describes how someone might approach end-of-life decisions in light of the teachings of the Catholic Church. We consider the redemptive nature of suffering, the important difference between morally obligatory and optional means of conserving one's life, the moral and legal status of Advance Medical Directives and Durable Power of Attorney, and the spread of euthanasia advocacy in America today.

Religious Guidance on End of Life Decisions
Most of the major religious organizations in the United States have published official statements to guide their members regarding living wills, health care proxies, and other issues relating to end-of-life planning. The following resources can help you find information specific to your faith.

Religious Guidance on End of Life Decisions, From ElderWeb, an Award-winning online eldercare sourcebook.

Living Will Resources, from  Beliefnet, a very thorough guide to religious and secular living will forms, laws, and other spiritual resources for thinking about end-of-life issues.  Beliefnet is a multi-faith e-community designed to individuals meet their own religious and spiritual needs in an engaging way. They are not affiliated with a particular religion or spiritual movement. Beliefnet hopes to help people meet their own religious, spiritual and moral needs by providing information, inspiration, community and stimulation. Fundamental to their mission is a deep respect for a wide variety of faiths and traditions.

Values History Form

The purpose of the Values History Form is to assist you in thinking about and writing down what is important to you about your health. If you should at some time become unable to make health care decisions, this form may help others make a decision for you in accordance with your values. Here is the Values History Form from the Institute for Ethics, University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center. The form is not a legal document, although it may be used to supplement a Living Will, a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care, or an Advance Directive for Health Care, if you have these. Also, the Values History Form is not copyrighted, and you are encouraged to make additional copies for friends and relatives to use.

The form is available to download - English | Spanish (.pdf)