An advance directive is a legal document that you can complete on your own that can help ensure your preferences for various medical treatments are followed if you become unable to make your own healthcare decisions. Your advance directive only goes into effect if your physician has evaluated you and determined that you are unable to understand your diagnosis, treatment options or the possible benefits and harms of the treatment options.
New Jersey has two kinds of advance directives, a “proxy directive” and an “instruction directive.” It is your decision whether to have both kinds or to just have one of them.
PROXY DIRECTIVE (Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare)
A proxy directive is a document you use to appoint a person to make healthcare decisions for you in the event you become unable to make them yourself. This document goes into effect whether your inability to make healthcare decisions is temporary because of an accident or permanent because of a disease. The person that you appoint is known as your “healthcare representative" and they are responsible for making the same decisions you would have made under the circumstances. If they are unable to determine what you would want in a specific situation they are to base their decision on what they think is in your best interest.
INSTRUCTION DIRECTIVE (Living Will)
An instruction directive is a document you use to tell your physician and family about the kinds of situations you would want or not want to have life-sustaining treatment in the event you are unable to make your own healthcare decisions. You can also include a description of your beliefs, values, and general care and treatment preferences. This will guide your physician and family when they have to make healthcare decisions for you in situations not specifically covered by your advance directive.