Dartmouth-Hitchcock logo
Summer Flowers In This Section

Advance Care Directives

Now more than ever, modern medicine is able to save and prolong lives for many people.

However, there are times when certain treatments will not prolong life or improve the quality of your life.

The best medical decisions result when you share your own personal beliefs and wishes with your physicians, nurses, and other clinicians, as well as family and friends.

Advance care planning is the process of planning ahead for medical care in the event you are unable to communicate your wishes to your family and healthcare providers. It involves at least two parts:

  • Discussing your values and wishes for care with family and healthcare providers
  • Recording these wishes in documents called advance directives

The purpose of an advance directive is to provide information about your beliefs and wishes when you are unable to do this for yourself. The best time to make healthcare decisions is before you are ill, when you can carefully consider your options. Advance Directives are tools for clarifying your values and wishes for care in serious health conditions. These tools will support and guide your family in making decisions for you in the event that you are unable to speak for yourself.

Speak Up Video

Advance Directives are written instructions about your health care wishes. In this video, see why it is important for you, and your family, to have these documents in your medical record if you have a health crisis that leaves you unable to speak for yourself. It is a gift to your family in a time of crisis and stress.

Did You Know?

  • Advance Directives are not only for the elderly or ill—they are good care for everyone. If a person has a sudden medical emergency, it is helpful to have all health care decisions already made.
  • There is NO LAW in New Hampshire and Vermont that GIVES your next of kin THE LEGAL AUTHORITY to speak for you about medical decisions if you cannot speak for yourself.
  • If you have a sudden emergency, your Advance Directive will give your loved ones the peace of mind to decide about your care, relieving them of the emotional burden.
  • Advance Directives have nothing to do with inheritance or financial beneficiaries. A health care agent is not allowed to sign financial documents.
  • It is not a care plan. When a person lacks capacity, it informs family and health care providers about their values and preferences so that a plan can be developed that reflects their own values (including who should be their decision-making proxy).
  • Advance Directives do not dictate a person's hospital care. They were created to protect people from receiving unwanted care. Advance Directives are not a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order.

Do It For The People You Love

For More Information

The following sections provide information about these important documents and answer some commonly asked questions:

Contact Us