Advance health directive

An advance health directive is a formal way of giving instructions for your future health care, and comes into effect only if you are unable to make your own decisions.

What it covers

An Advance Health Directive allows you to plan what medical treatment or health care you would like in the event that you cannot make decisions for yourself. It also enables you to appoint an attorney for health and personal matters if you want.

You can use your directive to express your wishes in a general way, such as stating that you would want to receive all available treatment.

You can include relevant information about yourself that health professionals should know, such as:

  • special health conditions
  • allergies to medications
  • religious, spiritual or cultural beliefs that could affect your care.

Specific instructions

You are able to give specific instructions about certain medical treatments. For instance, you might feel strongly about whether or not you want to receive life-sustaining measures to prolong your life. These include:

  • cardio-pulmonary resuscitation, to keep your heart beating
  • assisted ventilation, to keep you breathing if your lungs stop working
  • artificial nutrition and hydration.

You can use your directive to outline your views about the quality of life that would be acceptable to you. For instance, you might decide to specify that you would like life-sustaining measures withheld or withdrawn in certain situations, such as if you were to have:

  • a terminal illness for which there is no known cure nor chance of you recovering
  • severe and irreversible brain damage so that you are unable to communicate
  • an illness or injury so severe that there is no reasonable prospect that you will recover. 

Find out how to make an advance health directive.