Advance Directives

Advance Directives are forms you can fill out before you get sick or go to the hospital to let your doctors and loved ones know about your healthcare wishes if you ever become too ill to make decisions or speak for yourself.

Federal law requires hospitals to give you information about Advance Directives. In Connecticut, there are two types of Advance Directives forms: 

  1. Living Wills or Healthcare Instructions
  2. Appointment of Healthcare Representative

Living Will or Healthcare Instructions

A Living Will is a form that tells your doctors about your wishes for your medical care, especially if you are in the final stages of a terminal illness or are permanently unconscious. For example, would you want to be given artificial food and fluids, have a machine breathe for you (mechanical ventilation), or have your heart and lungs restarted if they stopped (cardiopulmonary resuscitation or CPR).

Appointment of Healthcare Representative

A Healthcare Representative is a person you've chosen to make medical decisions for you if you can't make them yourself. You can choose an adult relative or friend you trust, but your doctor is not allowed to be your Healthcare Representative. Your Healthcare Representative can make decisions about any part of your medical treatment, even about stopping life support machines. This person would follow the instructions in your Living Will, if you have one. Who would speak for you?

Advance Directives Forms

Living Will and and Healthcare Representative forms can be downloaded in English and Spanish. 

Other Ways to Obtain Advance Directives Forms 

  • When you are admitted to the hospital, you can ask an admitting staff person for the Advance Directives forms.
  • If you're already in the hospital, you can get Advance Directives forms from your doctor, nurse or a social worker.
  • You also can call 203-384-3211 (Spiritual Care) or 203-384-3186 (Social Work).
  • Outside the hospital, your primary care physician or your lawyer can help you get Advance Directives forms and help you fill them out. A lawyer is not required, however.
  • You can get them from the website of the Office of the Connecticut Attorney General, along with a packet called "Your Rights to Make Healthcare Decisions, A Summary of Connecticut Law." It includes all the Connecticut forms for making Advance Directives.

Frequently Asked Questions

You can fill out the forms if you're 18 years or older and of sound mind. You don't need a lawyer to fill out the forms, but you must have two people witness and sign the form so that it is legal. Your Healthcare Representative can't be one of your witnesses.

Give a copy to your doctor and to your Healthcare Representative. You might also want to have copies for your family, clergy or anyone else you think might be asked about your wishes. If you know ahead of time that you're going to a hospital, bring a copy with you.

You can change or revoke your Living Will at any time and in any way — orally or in writing. But if you want to change or revoke your Health Care Representative, you must do it in writing and have it witnessed by two people. Remember that when you change or revoke Advance Directives, you need to let your doctor and anyone who has a copy know about the changes. Do I have to fill out Advance Directives forms? No, you don't have to fill out the forms if you don't want to. You can just talk with your doctors and ask them to write down what you've said in your medical chart. And you can talk with your family. But filling out the forms makes it easier for your doctors and loved ones to understand and respect your wishes.

Yes. You don't have to have a Living Will or a Healthcare Representative to be admitted to a hospital or other healthcare setting and receive treatment.

Your doctors can explain what's happening with your illness or medical condition. They will tell you about different treatments and how they can help. Your doctors also have to tell you if the treatments could cause any serious problems. Sometimes, more than one treatment can help. Your doctors can say which one they think is best, but they can't choose for you. You decide what's best for you. You have the right to say "yes" to treatments you want, or "no" to any treatments you don't want — even if the treatment might keep you alive longer.

If you're too sick to make decisions, your Healthcare Representative will make decisions for you. If you haven't chosen a Healthcare Representative, your doctor will usually ask your closest relative or friend (including a domestic and/or same sex partner) to help decide what you would want or what's best for you. Often, that works fine, but sometimes relatives or friends disagree about what to do. You can save your loved ones a lot of worry if you fill out Advance Directives forms ahead of time.

After you choose someone to be your representative, tell that person what you want. Give them a copy of your Living Will, where you can write down when you would or wouldn't want certain types of medical treatments.