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What Is an Advance Medical Directive and Why Do I Need One?

According to Virginia law, all adults in Virginia have a right to prepare an “Advance Directive” document, a written statement of their medical care wishes. An Advance Directive informs your family and medical community of medical care you do and do not want in the event you become incapacitated and cannot speak for yourself. Incapacity can happen when someone has a stroke, coma, dementia, etc.

Here are two kinds of Advance Medical Directives:

  1. Advance Medical DirectiveAppointment of an Agent

Using a Power of Attorney for healthcare, you may authorize another person, such as a family member or friend, to make decisions on your behalf if you become unable to make informed decisions yourself.

  1. Written Healthcare Directive (Living Will)

A Written Healthcare Directive gives instructions for the kinds of healthcare you want and do not want if you become medically unable to express yourself. These instructions are more commonly referred to as a “living will.”

Benefits of having an Advanced Medical Directive in place are:

  1. While healthy, you can give adequate time and thought to evaluating the various decisions in light of your personal priorities and religious beliefs.
  2. If you decide to authorize another person, you have time to analyze various factors in the wise choice of that agent.
  3. You can prevent future arguments among family members as well as relieve family members of the burden of those important decisions.
  4. You can refuse the treatments you do not want in “end-of-life” situations.
  5. You can set in place some treatments or decisions including:
  • Resuscitation
  • Mechanical Ventilation
  • Tube Feeding
  • Dialysis
  • Antibiotics or antiviral drugs
  • Palliative care (Comfort Care)
  • Organ and tissue donations
  • Donating your body
  1. Not only for the sick or elderly, an Advance Medical Directive provides for carrying out one’s preferences in case of an accident or sudden illness.


Drafting Advance Medical Directives with a good estate lawyer will ensure you are protected and that your wishes will be followed.

If you have any questions about Advance Medical Directives or need help forming them, please contact us at Layman & Nichols, P.C. today.

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