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 become too ill to make decisions or speak for yourself.
Hospitals are required by federal law to give you information about Advance Directives. In Connecticut, there are two types of forms:
- Living Wills or Healthcare Instructions
- Appointment of Healthcare Representative
Living Will Or Healthcare Instructions
A Living Will tells your doctors about your wishes for medical care, especially if you are in the final stages of a terminal illness or 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 some you choose to make medical decisions for you if you cannot make them. You can choose an adult relative or friend you trust, but your doctor cannot 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.
This lets you make a Living Will and choose a Healthcare Representative in one form and decide if want to donate your organs.
Where Can I Get Advance Directives Forms?
- When you are admitted to the hospital, you can ask a staff person there for the Advance Directives forms.
- If you are already in the hospital, you can get these 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 lawyer can help you get Advance Directives forms and help you fill them out. A lawyer is not required.
- 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."
Download the Advance Directive forms here.
Frequently Asked Questions
Who can fill out Advance Directives forms?
You can fill out the forms if you are 18 years or older and of sound mind. You do not need a lawyer to fill out the forms, but you must have two people witness and sign it to be legal. Your Healthcare Representative cannot be a witness.
Who should have a copy of my Advance Directive forms?
Give a copy to your doctor and your Healthcare Representative. Also consider copies for your family, clergy or anyone else you think might be asked about your wishes. If you know you are going to a hospital, bring a copy with you.
What if I change my mind?
You can change or revoke your Living Will at any time and in any way — orally or in writing. To change or revoke your Health Care Representative, you must do it in writing and have it witnessed by two people. Remember, when you change or revoke Advance Directives, you must let your doctor and anyone who has a copy know about the changes.
Do I have to fill out Advance Directives forms?
No, you do not have to fill out the forms. You can talk with your doctors and ask them to write what you have said in your medical chart. You can also talk with your family. But filling out the forms makes it easier for your doctors and loved ones to understand and respect your wishes.
Can I still get treated if I don't have Advance Directives forms?
Yes. A Living Will or a Healthcare Representative is not necessary to be admitted to a hospital or other healthcare setting and receive treatment.
Who makes the decisions about my treatments?
Your doctors can explain what is happening with your illness or medical condition. They will tell you about different treatments and how they can help. Your doctors also must tell you if 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 cannot choose for you. You decide what is best. You have the right to say "yes" or "no" to any treatments — even if the treatment might keep you alive longer.
What happens if I am too sick to make decisions?
Your Healthcare Representative will make decisions for you. If you have not 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 is best for you. 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.
How does my Healthcare Representative know what I want?
Tell that person what you want. Give them a copy of your Living Will, where you can write when you would or would not want certain types of medical treatments.