Advance care planning is a process that allows you, as the patient, to make plans about your future health care and medical treatment and to make your wishes for care known to your loved ones and medical team.

Advance care planning includes two major processes:

  1. First, it requires talking to your doctor about the kind of healthcare you would want if you ever became too ill to make decisions about your care. These conversations provide direction to your doctors and other healthcare professionals about the kind of medical care you want if you were ever unable to directly talk about or make your own health care choices.
  2. After you have these conversations, you can complete the second process which involves completing formal, legal documents that outline the type of care you want. These formal documents are called advance directives.

Advance directives include three no-cost legal documents that record the type of care you want if you are ever unable to communicate your preferences. Completing advance directives includes filling out the following three documents:

  1. Living will: A document that details the kind of medical treatment you want in circumstances where you are not able to express your own wishes.
  2. Healthcare proxy: A legal document that specifies which person (often a friend or family member) you want to make healthcare decisions on your behalf if you were unable to make them for yourself.
  3. Do not resuscitate order (DNR order): A document that tells your medical team if you do not want cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) if your breathing were to stop or your heart were to stop beating. Some patients feel that a DNR order is appropriate if CPR is unlikely to help them or might hurt them. If you want CPR, you do not need to complete this document.

Click this link to view the healthcare proxy and living will documents for New York State: 

If you are interested in a DNR order, speak to your medical provider about the needed document.

It is important to think about completing advance directives now so that if an emergency were to arise—such as complications during surgery, an unexpected accident, or admission to the intensive care unit—you can ensure you receive the type of care you want. It is recommended that all individuals, even healthy patients, have these documents completed should an emergency ever arise.  

Your medical providers are here to help you plan! Just ask your doctor about the process of completing advance directives, and he or she can help you fill out the three formal documents (a living will, a health care proxy, and a DNR order). These documents are free and your medical providers can help you complete them.