Your AD is turned on only when you need it

Doctors and loved ones will only use your Advance Directive to make decisions about your health care if all three of these things happen first:

  1. Your attending physician evaluates you and finds that you are incapacitated.
  2. A second physician, who is not currently treating you, agrees that you are incapacitated.
  3. A doctor must tell you that he/she has found that you are incapacitated and put that finding in writing in your record.


There is one exception to this:

  1. A second physician’s opinion is not needed if you are in a coma.


What does it mean to be incapacitated?

An individual is found to be incapacitated if he/she is unable to make informed decisions about his/her care. An individual may be incapable of making informed decisions about his/her care for a number of reasons, including:

  • Physical injury (e.g., person is in coma after a car accident)
  • Mental illness (e.g., person is experiencing a mental health crisis)
  • Decline in brain functioning (e.g., dementia)

According to Virginia law, an individual cannot be found incapacitated just because they have a diagnosis of mental illness. His/her mental illness must be at a level that leaves the person unable to make informed decisions about his/her care (Va. Code §54.1-2982)



Your AD is only turned for as long as you need it

Once any one physician evaluates you and agrees that you are now able to make informed decisions about your care, then the Advance Directive is turned off. At this point, you can start making your own decisions once again.

For more information about capacity and the required determinations of capacity, see Va. Code §54.1-2983.2.

When Does My AD Go Into Effect?