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Advance Directive Cheat Sheet


We try to keep our advance directive materials as simple and clear as possible, but we can’t always avoid medical or legal jargon. Here some words and phrases you’ll need to know.

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 decisions on your own.

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 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 if you can’t do so yourself.

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

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

Life-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.