Advance Directives

When you or a family member becomes seriously injured or gravely ill, grief and shock can cloud the decisions you make. Questions about the intensity of medical care administered and whether life-support systems should be used or withdrawn are important ones that should be answered before a crisis situation happens. It is important for you and your family to learn about the types of medical care available and to discuss the kinds of treatment with which you would feel comfortable.

Our business is to preserve life. We take every step necessary to do it. Unless you direct us or your physician, in advance, to do otherwise, you will receive total life support, including CPR. This decision should be made after thoughtful discussion between your physician and any others who are close to you. It is your physician’s responsibility to inform you of your diagnosis and likelihood of recovery.

Important things to know about Advance Directives:

  • Delaware and federal law give every competent adult, 18 years or older, the right to make their own health care decisions, including the right to decide what medical care or treatments to accept, reject or discontinue.
  • In case you are unable to speak for yourself, have a terminal illness or are in a coma and unable to communicate, you can express your wishes in advance—through an Advance Directive—stating your health and care preferences in writing.
  • If you do not want to receive certain types of treatment or you wish to name someone to make health care decisions, you have the right to make these wishes known to your doctor, hospital or health care provider.
  • Before deciding which choices are best for you, you should discuss the situation with your family and your physician.

Frequently Asked Questions:

What are Advance Directives?

Formal advance directives are documents that state your choices for health care, or name someone to make those decisions about your medical treatment if you are unable to make those decisions yourself. Through these documents, you make legally valid decisions about future medical treatment. Delaware law recognizes two types of advance directives:

  • Instructions for Health Care (living will)
  • Power of Attorney for Health Care
It is important to remember that these directives take effect only when you can no longer make your health care decisions. As long as you are able to give “informed consent” your health care provider will rely on you and not your advance directive.

What is a living will?

A living will (“Instructions for Health Care”) is a document in which you can stipulate the kind of life-prolonging medical care you want if you become terminally ill or lapse into a permanent unconscious state.

Your Living Will goes into effect when your doctor/health care provider has a copy of it, your physician has determined that you are no longer able to make your own health care decisions, and it has been determined that you are terminally ill or in a permanent unconscious state.

What is a Power of Attorney for Health Care (PAHC)?

A power of attorney for health care is another kind of advance directive—a signed, dated and witnessed document naming another person to make medical decisions for you if you are unable to make them yourself. The person you appoint should be knowledgeable of your wishes. The person should be someone in whom you can trust and have confidence that they understand and agree to accept the responsibility.

The PAHC becomes effective only when you are temporarily or permanently unable to make your own health care decisions and your agent consents to start making those decisions.

What is the difference between a PAHC and a living will?

A Delaware living will applies only if you are terminally ill or you are in a permanent unconscious state, and it tells your doctor what you do not want. The PAHC allows you to appoint someone to make health care decisions for you if you cannot make them. It covers all health care situations in which you are not capable of making the decision yourself. The PAHC also allows your agent to make decisions based on their knowledge of you and your beliefs and wishes.

How can I know in advance which procedures I would want or not want?

Although it isn’t possible to specify every possible procedure under every possible circumstance, it is possible to decide what kind of treatment you want in most situations. Your doctor must inform you about your medical condition, which different treatments are available and what each treatment can do for you. Thinking about and discussing it with your family, your friends and your physician can help you clarify your preferences.

It is never too early to start this decision-making process. You should not postpone it until you face serious illness.

What if I draw up a living will or PAHC and then change my mind?

You may change or revoke these documents at any time. To cancel your advance directive, simply destroy the original document and tell your family, friends, doctor or anyone else who has copies that you have revoked it. To change your advance directive, simply write a new one. This must be dated and witnessed. Make sure you give copies of the new document to you family, friends and doctor and destroy all copies of the old one.

What are Delaware’s requirements for valid Advance Directives?

The Advance Directive must be in writing, signed by you or by another person at your direction in your presence, dated and signed in the presence of two qualifying witnesses. The following people cannot witness your advance directive:

  • Anyone related to you by blood or marriage
  • Anyone who is entitled to a portion of your estate
  • Anyone who has a claim against any part of your estate
  • Anyone who has direct financial responsibility for your medical care
  • Anyone who is an employee of the hospital or health care facility at which you are a patient