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Advance Care Planning Cheat Sheet

Advance care planning forms often have a lot of medical or legal jargon. Here some words and phrases you’ll need to know.

Advance directive. A legal document that allows you to state your wishes for the types of end-of-life care you want. Other names for this document include living will, medical directive, and directive to physicians.

Anatomical gift. This is when you decide that after dying, you’d like to donate all or part of your body for transplants, therapy, research, and teaching.

Competent. You are capable of making healthcare decisions on your own.

Do not resuscitate (DNR) order. If you are chronically ill and don't want to be given CPR in an emergency, you can ask your doctor to write a DNR order. A DNR is a legally binding document.

End-stage condition. You have an injury, disease, or illness that can’t be cured or reversed. It gets worse with time, and there’s no reasonable chance that you’ll get better with treatment.

Express and informed consent. This means you’re giving your permission and you have all the information you need to do so.

Healthcare clearinghouse. An organization, like a billing service, that handles or processes health information. It can be private or public.

Health care surrogate. An adult you’ve legally appointed to receive information about your health and to make healthcare decisions for you — in case you can’t do so yourself. To appoint this person, you use a legal document that may be called a health care surrogate form, designation of health care surrogate, healthcare power of attorney, medical power of attorney, or power of attorney for health care.

Incapacitated. You don’t have the ability — physically, mentally, or both — to tell caregivers what kind of healthcare you want to receive.

Living will. This legal document states your wishes for the types of end-of-life care you want.

Living will surrogate. An adult you’ve legally appointed to act on your behalf to help carry out your living will if you’re unable to.

Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) form. A legal document that lists medical orders from your doctor that other providers should follow in an emergency.

Power of attorney. A legal documents that lets you appoint someone to act for you, which may include managing your property, finances, insurance, and more.

Prolonging care. Medical treatments — like a feeding tube or breathing machine — that extend your life when your body can no longer perform certain functions on its own. It doesn’t include medicine or procedures that give you comfort or relieve pain.

Persistent vegetative state. You’re not conscious, you can’t move your body, and you can’t meaningfully communicate or take part in the world around you.

Terminal condition. You have an injury, disease, or illness that’s reached a point where there’s no reasonable chance you’ll get better. Without treatment to prolong your life, a terminal condition will lead to death.