Your Right to Direct Your Future
Who Will Make Your Medical Decisions When You Canít?
Wisconsin Department of Health Services
Division of Quality Assurance
P-62025 (Rev. 12/08)
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You have the right to make decisions about your health care. This
includes the right to accept or refuse medical or surgical treatment.
also have the right to plan and direct the types of health care you may
receive in the event you become unable to express your wishes. You can do
this by making an "advance directive."
WHAT IS AN ADVANCE DIRECTIVE?
An advance directive describes, in writing, your choices about the
treatments you want or do not want or about how health care decisions
should be made for you if you become incapacitated and cannot express your
An advance directive expresses your personal wishes,
beliefs and values. When you make an advance directive, you should
consider issues like dying, living as long as possible, being kept alive
on machines, being independent, and quality of life.
issues may be difficult but it is necessary if you want others to follow
WHO CAN MAKE AN ADVANCE DIRECTIVE?
In Wisconsin, if you are 18 years of age or older and of "sound
mind," you can make an advance directive.
WHY SHOULD I MAKE AN ADVANCE DIRECTIVE?
An advance directive speaks for you when you are unable to speak for
HOW DO I MAKE AN ADVANCE DIRECTIVE?
There are three ways to make a formal advance directive in Wisconsin.
You can complete either a living will or a power of
attorney for health care document.
These forms may be available
from your health care provider or can be obtained from the Division of
Public Health via http://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/forms/AdvDirectives/index.htm.
You do not need an attorney to complete these forms. However, two
persons must witness your signature. The forms describe who may or may not
be a witness.
A third way to express your wishes is to have a legal document drafted
by your attorney and appropriately witnessed.
WHAT IS A LIVING WILL?
A living will informs your physician regarding your preferences or
wishes about life-sustaining measures to be used when you are near death
or in a persistent vegetative state.
The life-sustaining measures mentioned in the living will include
treatments or machines that keep your heart, lungs, or kidneys functioning
when they are unable to do so on their own.
A living will goes into effect only when two physicians, one of whom is
your attending physician, agree in writing that you are either near death
or are in a persistent vegetative state that cannot be reversed and are
unable to understand or express your health care choices.
WHAT IS A POWER OF ATTORNEY FOR HEALTH CARE?
The power of attorney for health care is a document in which you
appoint another person (a "health care agent") to make health
care decisions for you in the event that you are not capable of making
A health care agent can make a wide range of health
care decisions for you, such as whether or not you should have an
operation, receive certain medications, or be placed on a life support
In some areas of health care your health care agent is not allowed
to make decisions for you unless you give him or her specific authority in
those areas when you complete the form.
These areas are admission to long
term care facilities, limitations on mental health treatment, health care
decisions for pregnant women, pregnancy care and provision of a feeding
Your health care agent will make decisions for you based upon your
directions, his or her knowledge about you and your wishes, and his or her
opinion about what is best for you.
It is important to choose someone who knows you well and to discuss
your treatment preferences with him or her in advance.
You can also include specific instructions about the type of treatments
you want or do not want, e.g., surgery, when you complete the form.
A power of attorney for health care goes into effect only when two
physicians, or a physician and a psychologist, agree in writing that you
can no longer understand your treatment options or express your health
care choices to others.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A LIVING WILL AND A
POWER OF ATTORNEY FOR HEALTH CARE?
A living will goes into effect only when your death is very near or
when you are in a persistent vegetative state and you have lost the
ability to make medical decisions. It deals only with the use or non-use
of life sustaining measures.
A power of attorney for health care goes into effect when you are
incapacitated and can no longer make health care decisions but you
do not have to be close to death or in a vegetative state.
power of attorney for health care also allows another person to speak for
you and make health care decisions for you that are not limited to
life-sustaining measures. The type of decisions this person can make
depends upon how you complete the form.
SHOULD I HAVE BOTH A LIVING WILL AND A POWER OF
ATTORNEY FOR HEALTH CARE?
It is not necessary to have both a living will and a power of attorney
for health care. If you do have both documents, you should make sure they
do not conflict.
WHAT IF I CHANGE MY MIND?
You can cancel or replace a living will or a power of attorney for
health care at any time by expressing this verbally or in writing to your
physician or health care provider. The different ways you can do this are
also explained in the letter that accompanies the forms you complete.
DOES MY HEALTH CARE PROVIDER HAVE TO FOLLOW MY ADVANCE
Some health care providers and physicians may have policies or beliefs
that prohibit them from honoring certain wishes made in advance
It is important to discuss your wishes with them in advance to
determine if they will honor your advance directives.
If a physician or
provider is unwilling to honor your wishes, the physician or provider must
make a good faith effort to refer you to a physician or provider who will
meet your needs.
WHAT HAPPENS IF I DONíT MAKE AN ADVANCE DIRECTIVE?
You will receive medical care if you do not make an advance directive.
However, there is a greater chance you will not receive the types of care
and treatments you want if you have not made an advance directive.
If you cannot speak for yourself and have not made an advance
directive, a physician will generally look to your family, friends, or
clergy for decisions about your care.
If the physician or health care
facility is unsure, or if your family is in disagreement about the
decision, they may ask courts to appoint a person (a guardian) who will
make decisions for you.
WHERE SHOULD I KEEP MY ADVANCE DIRECTIVE?
You should keep your advance directive in a safe place where you and
others can easily find it. (Do not keep it in a bank safe deposit box.)
You should make sure your family members and your attorney, if you have
one, know you have made an advance directive and know where it is located.
You should also ask your physician and your other health care providers to
make your advance directive part of your permanent medical record.
I HAVE SOME QUESTIONS. WHO CAN ANSWER THEM OR GIVE ME
Your physician or other health care providers can help you understand
your health needs and the options for treating these needs. They can
answer questions about advance directives.
You can also contact your attorney or the following agencies, if you
have questions about advance directives.
Wisconsin Division of Public Health
Living Will/Power of Attorney
P.O. Box 2659
Madison WI 53701-0309
| Wisconsin Guardianship Support Center (GSC)
1414 MacArthur Road
Madison WI 53714
Fax: (866) 561-2652
|For questions about Powers of Attorney for Health Care
and Living Wills.
To request a copy of "Planning for Future Health Care
Decision-Making Do-it-Yourself Packet," send $2.00 with your
name and address to the address at the left.
Wisconsin Board on Aging and Long Term Care (Ombudsman Program)
1402 Pankratz St.
Madison WI 53704
Wisconsin Department of Health Services
Division of Quality Assurance
Bureau of Education Services and Technology
P. O. Box 2969
Madison, WI 53701-2969
Director: (608) 266-2055
Fax: (608) 267-7119
Division of Quality Assurance Regional Offices