Why Should I Think About Making an Advance Directive?

You are the expert on your health care.  Nobody knows better than you do about your health history, your support system, what works for you, and what doesn’t work for you.  

So what happens if you cannot make healthcare decisions because of an injury or illness?  Your health care team has lost its most important member!  But if you have an AD, then your “pre-recorded voice” can still be part of treatment planning.  

What happens without an AD?


There are ways for treatment to happen if you don’t have an AD.  For example, Virginia law gives a list of people that doctors can contact to make decisions for you.  But, the list is a “one-size-fits all” list…and it might not be in the order you would want.


  1. Court-appointed guardian (if you have one)
  2. Spouse (this includes separated but not yet divorced spouses)
  3. Adult child(ren) (majority rules)
  4. Parent
  5. Adult siblings (majority rules)
  6. Other relatives, in order of blood relationship
  7. An interested adult, or “next friend”


(Va. Code §54.1-2986)


What if that list fits my needs?


Even if the list is OK for you, do the people on it know what they need to about what you want and don’t want?  For example, your doctor or loved ones may not know about medication side-effects you have had.  Or maybe there is a certain doctor you want contacted and involved.  You can help the people involved in your treatment by writing such things in an AD.