Plan Now for Future Healthcare Decisions

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Adults generally have the right to decide if they want medical treatment, unless they are not competent. This right also includes decisions about treatments that extend life, such as life-support machines or feeding tubes.

Sometimes, an accident or illness takes away a person’s ability to make healthcare choices. But the decision still must be made. If you are unable to make them, others will. They will decide based on your wishes or your best interests if your wishes are unknown.

This is where an advance directive comes in to help you plan for these future health care decisions. An advance directive can be used to name a healthcare agent and state your preferences about treatments that might be used to sustain your life.

The State of Maryland offers an optional advance directive online.  Once completed, it’s advisable to give copies of the form to your family members, friends, doctor, health care agent and backup agent(s). If you are admitted to a hospital or nursing home, bring a copy. Also consider carrying a card in your wallet stating you have an advance directive and who to contact in case of emergencies. 

If you have any legal questions about your personal situation, you should consult your lawyer. Remember: Once you make an advance directive, it remains in effect unless you revoke it. It does not expire, and no one can make any changes to it except you. If you made an advance directive in another State, it is still valid in Maryland. 

The advance directive form is available in English, French, Chinese, Spanish, Korean, Vietnamese and Russian. Please visit St. Mary’s Hospital’s website at to download the form and a pamphlet explaining how to complete the form.


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