An advance health care directive allows for medical care to be administered according to the wishes of the patient if he is incapacitated or near death. It allows for his previously stated desires about end-of-life care to be respected even if he cannot make decisions, states MedlinePlus.
Some types of advance directives include living wills, surrogate designations and anatomical donations, according to the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration. These directives can be issued in written or oral form, with an oral directive generally being issued at the time of a critical diagnosis.
A living will is a document, usually prepared under the guidance of an attorney, regarding a person's desired health care in the event he cannot make choices himself, explains the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration. A health care surrogate designation is the assignment of another individual, usually a family member or close friend, to make medical decisions for the designator if he is unable to do so. An anatomical donation is an expressed desire to donate organs or tissues at the time of death to living persons or medical research.
Laws about advance health care directives vary by state, and some states do not honor out-of-state directives, notes the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization. An advance directive is legally valid only if the preparer signs it in the presence of witnesses.