Advance Directives

In 1990, Congress passed the Patient Self-Determination Act. It requires health care institutions to tell patients and the people in their communities about their rights under Virginia law to make decisions about their health care. These rights include the right to accept or refuse care and the right to make advance directives about their care.

Many people worry about what would happen if, due to physical or mental problems, they are unable to understand the possible outcomes of a proposed health care decision and cannot tell their doctor whether they want or do not want recommended health care. Under a Virginia law called the “Health Care Decisions Act,” if you are an adult you may sign a document that makes your choices about health care known to your doctor and family in advance. In that document, you also may name someone you trust to make these decisions for you if you become unable to express your wishes yourself. This document is known as an “advance directive.”

Additional Resources is a collaboration between Mental Health America of Virginia (MHAV),  the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services, the University of Virginia and Duke University. It provides information to consumers about advance directives.

National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization offers free, on-line state specific advance directive forms along with information explaining advanced directives, choosing a healthcare agent and preparing your advanced directives.

Health Information Translations has information on advance directives in a variety of languages.