What Is An Advance Medical Directive?

With the Coronavirus keeping us all on edge about the future, it’s important that we do what we can to prepare.

Even when you’re taking precautions, it’s still a good idea to think about what you’ll do if you or a family member contract the virus.

Part of those preparations should be a medical plan, and should include an Advance Medical Directive.


What is An Advance Medical Directive?

An Advance Medical Directive is a legal document that gives someone else the authority to make medical decisions for you if you are incapacitated.
Under Virginia law, Advance Medical Directives both designate someone to be your agent for medical decisions and allow you to specify the type of care you want and/or don’t want.

It can be general, offering a few directives and naming an agent to make decisions on your behalf should you become unable to do so yourself, or it may include specific instructions for your agent to follow.

Selecting an Agent

When you are incapable of making your own health care decisions, the person you designate as your agent in your Advance Medical Directive will follow the wishes you’ve laid out for your ongoing care.

They can do so either temporarily until you recover, like when you are very ill, in surgery, or following an accident, or long-term, as in the case of a coma.

(Related: Need help thinking about how to choose your agent? Read our article, “Who Should I Choose as My Agent?”)

Making Decisions about Medical Care

Although unpleasant, it’s helpful to imagine different medical situations you might find yourself in in the future, and think about how you want to respond to them.

What do you want to happen if you enter a vegetative state or a contract a terminal illness? What should happen if you experience organ failure or your heart stops?


Are you comfortable with the idea of artificial life support, like breathing or feeding tubes?


Do you want to undergo dialysis if it will prolong your life?


Do you approve of the administration of pain medications for comfort, even if you are unconscious?

How to Create an Advance Medical Directive

Because an Advance Medical Directive is a legally-binding document, it has to be created in a specific way, with specific legal language included, and signed in the presence of a notary and witnesses.

Similarly to a Last Will and Testament, Advance Medical Directives are not generic forms and should not be created online, as they are written for doctors, and in the case of a dispute, for a judge.

If you want to be confident that your advance medical directive will hold up under controversy and ensure that your wishes are carried out, it’s best to work with a knowledgable attorney to draft it.

(Related: Can You Make A Will Online?)

Keep in mind that it is your responsibility to notify your attending physician about your advance medical directive. Give a copy to your primary physician, your attorney, your spouse, and another close family member, in case you become incapacitated. You should also include the orginals with the rest of your estate planning documents.

Create Your Advance Medical Directive Today

If you don’t have an Advance Medical Directive, you need one. Especially in the midst of a pandemic. We’re encouraging everyone to contact an attorney they trust to have this important legal document drawn up.

(Related: 6 Tips for Choosing the Right Estate Planning Attorney)

If you are ready to draft your Advance Medical Directive and need some help, we’re happy to chat with you.

Because we want to be wise during this uncertain time, we are conducting most of our consultations via phone or video conference call, and we can easily set up a time to do that with you. Contact us today.


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