Virginia Advance Directives
When most people hear “Advance Directive,” they think of end-of-life care because of the history of ADs and well-known cases in the media. Virginia is a good example of a state that made legislative changes so that ADs can cover more than end-of-life care. Even though a lot of our website talks about planning for medical and mental health care, you can still plan ahead for end-of-life care, too.
Many people use their ADs to plan for end-of-life care because they have important values and wishes about quality of life and/or life-prolonging treatments. Also, planning for end-of-life care can be great help to loved ones who are faced with making decisions for the dying person.
It is important to understand what counts as “end-of-life.” There are two basic categories when talking about end-of-life:
Death is imminent
If your death is “imminent,” that means that your death is very likely to happen soon. Medical treatment will not help you to recover – it will only keep you alive as long as treatments can. Treatments like tube feeding, IV fluids, and artificial respiration will not help you recover, they will only keep your bodily functions going.
In your Advance Directive, you are able to write down your instructions about life-prolonging treatment – Do you want all life-prolonging measures? Do you want no life-prolonging measures? Do you want most types of life-prolonging treatment, but there are a couple you do not want?
Persistent vegetative state
If you are in a “persistent vegetative state,” that means you are unconscious, and it is reasonably certain that you will never recover, even with medical treatment. Other terms that people may use include “brain dead,” “permanent coma,” or “a vegetable.” Although your health care provider may be able to prolong your life through treatment such as tube feeding, IV fluids, artificial respiration, and other means, it is reasonably certain that you will not recover.
In your Advance Directive, you are able to write down your instructions about life-prolonging treatment – Do you want all life-prolonging measures? Do you want no life-prolonging measures? Do you want most types of life-prolonging treatment, but there are a couple you do not want? Do you want life-prolonging measures tried for a certain amount of time before stopping these measures?
Learning more about end-of-life care
We do not give medical information about the dying process on this website. If you have questions about the use or withdrawal of life-prolonging treatments, we strongly encourage you to talk with a medical professional or turn to resources such as the Hospice Foundation.
A final point
We hope you will take the opportunity to plan ahead for end-of-life care with Advance Directives. If you do not, however, it is good to know that you can make an Advance Directive orally in the case of terminal illnesses. Oral ADs are valid when made in the presence of the attending physician and two witnesses.
This website is not intended to provide legal advice. It is merely a guide, and reflects one view of Advance Directives in Virginia. It can be beneficial to consult with an attorney regarding your Advance Directive. However, the intention of Virginia’s law on Advance Directives is to enable and encourage all capable adults to fill out an Advance Directive on their own.
This website is designed and administered by Mental Health America of Virginia (MHAV) and is funded through a grant by the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services.
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