Someday your medical condition could prevent you from making your own health care decisions. The late stages of dementia, coma, traumatic brain injury or terminal illness could all render you incapacitated.
A health care directive allows you to make decisions in advance and express your wishes about the medical treatments you would and would not like to receive in a scenario like this. There are many end-of-life decisions you can address in your directive. The Mayo Clinic describes a few important decisions to include.
If you were to contract an infectious disease while incapacitated, you could receive antibiotics or antiviral medications to treat it. If you would prefer to let the infection run its course, you could specify this in your health care directive.
If your heart were to stop beating, resuscitation could start it up again. If you would prefer that your life come to an end when your heart stops beating, your directive could include an order that would prevent anyone from trying to restart your heart, whether through the manual means of cardiopulmonary resuscitation or an electrical shock.
If your kidneys were no longer functioning, you could go on dialysis, which would manage your fluid levels and remove waste from your blood. In your health care directive, you can express whether you want to receive this treatment and, if so, for how long.
If you were no longer able to breathe on your own, ventilation would allow a machine to take over for you. With a health care directive, you could describe the circumstances under which you would want to go on a ventilator and how long you would wish to stay.
If you have strong feelings about not going on ventilation or receiving resuscitation, you can create do not intubate or do not resuscitate orders with the help of your doctor without a health care directive. Nevertheless, it is also good to have the directive to outline your wishes in detail.