Open Accessibility Menu

Advance Directives

What is an "Advance Directive?”

What would happen if you were the victim of a medical emergency, and you were unable to communicate your wishes? There are ways to ensure that your wishes are known and carried out using proper legal documents. You can specify the medical treatments you would want used and can protect your family from having to make a painful or challenging medical decision on your behalf.

An "advance directive” is a written document that you may use, under certain circumstances, to tell others what care you would like to receive or not receive should you become unable to express your wishes at some time in the future.

This document lets you express your wishes regarding medical treatment ahead of time, so that you can make sure to receive the treatment that you want and need in the event that you are not able to make those decisions or communicate those decisions at the time.

Types of Advance Directives

An advance directive may take many forms. In Pennsylvania, two types of advance directives are specifically authorized:

  1. A living will-also known as an advance directive for healthcare, and
  2. A "durable power of attorney” for healthcare

Pennsylvania Advance Directives

Any person may make an advance directive who is of sound mind, is 18 years or older, is a high school graduate, is married, or is emancipated. You must write out an advance directive and sign it. If you cannot sign it for some reason, it is possible to direct an authorized party to sign on your behalf. You must also have two witnesses over 18 years of age. The advance directive law in Pennsylvania is called Act 169 of 2006. It was recently revised to ensure that individuals have more clarity in the use of these documents, including the Pennsylvania Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment (POLST).