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Health care directives

Be prepared to make your health care wishes known

A health care directive gives your loved ones, health care agents and health care providers direction on what medical care you want or don't want if you can't communicate. This document gives you the chance to write out your wishes.

It is suggested that all adults (18 years or older), even those not currently ill or having surgery, make sure their loved ones, health care agents and health care providers are aware of their wishes. A health care directive is a way to do that.

The health care directive goes into effect if you can’t make medical decisions or make your wishes known (for instance, if you’re unable to communicate your wishes or speak for yourself).

Learn more

Health care directive overview

A health care directive allows you to:

  • appoint another person (called an agent) to make health care decisions for you if you become unable to make or communicate decisions for yourself,
  • or leave written instructions so that others can make decisions based on your wishes and preferences,
  • or do both—appoint a health care agent and leave instructions.

Remember: The most important thing about the health care directive is that you, your family and your doctor each understand your wishes.

If you have a completed health care directive, provide a copy to each agent, your provider and bring a copy of your health care directive to the hospital. It will be part of your medical chart.

If you don't already have a health care directive, you can attend a free advance care planning class, talk about your medical care and treatment wishes with your family and health care team before preparing one. These decisions may be difficult. Your health care team will help you understand how these decisions may affect you.

Questions you might start thinking about now include:

  • What if it becomes necessary for me to make other living arrangements?
  • If I become unable to communicate, what do I want my loved ones to know about my health care wishes?
  • Who do I want to have make decisions for me when I can't speak for myself?
  • At what point would I want to say, "Enough is enough. I want to focus on comfort and quality of life?"
  • What is hospice? Would I ever want to be part of a hospice program?
  • Would I agree to an autopsy to help my family understand my cause of death?
  • Do I want to become an organ donor?
  • What are my preferences for funeral arrangements?

Once a health care directive is written, it can be changed or revoked as long as you are able.

Options for creating a health care directive

Health care directive — online option

Fill out your health care directive in your secure online account.

Health care directive — paper option

Print out and fill in the paper form:

Minnesota residents:

Wisconsin residents:

When you print the PDF, please print it one-sided. This document will be scanned into your electronic health record.

After you print the PDF and fill it out, have it signed by two witnesses (Minnesota or Wisconsin) or have it notarized by a notary public (Minnesota only). Then give copies to your health care provider and health care agent(s).

Health care directive tips

  • Attend a class
  • A member of your health care team (such as a social worker, chaplain, home health or palliative care nurse) can help you prepare a health care directive.
  • You do not need a lawyer to prepare a health care directive.
  • Laws about health care directives (or advance directives) are not the same in all 50 U.S. states. If you spend a lot of time in or move to another state, find out if you need to fill out a new form.

State guidelines

Related links

Source: Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Health Care Directive: Making Your Health Care Wishes Known, gen-ah-91676 (Minnesota) and gen-ah-96884 (Wisconsin)
Reviewed by: Allina Health's Patient Education Department experts

Last reviewed: 10/1/2021

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