The year 1996 marks the fifth anniversary of the federal Patient Self-Determination Act.
The Patient Self-Determination Act required hospitals, nursing homes, and health plans
to ask whether patients have advance directives and to incorporate them into the medical record. A "living will" is an advance directive by which a person tells caregivers the
circumstances in which life-sustaining treatment is to be provided or forgone if the patient is unable
to communicate. A "durable power of attorney for health care" enables one to designate a person to
speak on his or her behalf if the author loses decision-making capacity. "Advance planning" is the
process of reflection, discussion, and communication of treatment preferences for end-of-life care
that precedes and may lead to an advance directive.
(Arch Intern Med. 1996;156:1062-1068)