Advance Medical Directives

Planning Your Future Care

During your life there may come a time when you or a member of your family may be asked to make difficult decisions about your health care. You may make these future decisions easier on your loved ones by communicating your wishes now by talking with them openly and completing the proper legal documents. 

Advance directives are forms that outline the care you would like to receive or not receive if you are unable to speak for yourself. The three types of forms are Living Will, Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care and Comfort One. These forms do not have to be completed by an attorney, however they do need to be signed and/or notarized.

When you are making decisions and completing your advance directives, think about the following situations:

  • If you have a sudden illness
  • If you have a severe accident
  • If you become terminally ill

Consider what type of treatment you would want in each of these situations. Write your wishes clearly and remember to revise your documents if your wishes ever change. As you age, your decisions may change.

What is a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care?

A Durable Power of Attorney for health care document authorizes another person to make health care decisions for an individual who, temporarily or permanently, can no longer make or communicate such decisions. The term “durable” means that the individual appointed is authorized to make health care decisions on behalf of the person who becomes incapacitated — for example, a person who is in a coma after a car accident. Without a Durable Power of Attorney for health care, the family member or close friend making the health care decision for you may not be the individual you would select.

What is a Living Will?

A Living Will directs what treatment to provide or withhold when you are terminally ill. It specifies a person’s choices of life-sustaining treatment to be received should the need arise. Unlike a Durable Power of Attorney for health care, a Living Will normally does not allow for the appointment of an individual to make health care decisions.

What is Comfort One?

Comfort One is an advance directive available through the South Dakota Department of Health pertaining to the administration of cardiopulmonary resuscitation, which is a medical order based on informed consent directing emergency medical services personnel to not perform resuscitative measures in the event of a respiratory or cardiac arrest or malfunction. Individuals wishing to register for Comfort One should request the form from their health care provider.

Next Steps

The best time to make an advance directive is when you are healthy, of sound mind, and not worried about a health condition. As you age and your health changes, it is important to review, update, and communicate your wishes.

Download PLHS's Health Care Planning Book that includes Living Will and Durable Power of Attorney forms:

Health Care Planning

Where can I get help with advance directives?

Our hospital has social workers that are available to provide patients with forms, answer questions, and locate a notary public to complete the forms. You can also work with an attorney of your choice to formulate an advance directive.

More Resources:

Hospice and Palliative Care: