A “health care directive” permits the person(s) you designate to make critical medical decisions on your behalf, often including the ultimate decisions about your medical care and even withholding food or water under certain circumstances.

Specifying Your Wishes

The health care directive is also designed to incorporate your specific wishes about the types of medical care you want or don’t want, as well as your philosophy about life, death, and the hereafter. In the health care directive, you can identify the circumstances, such as brain death, in which you authorize the removal of life support equipment, and the limitation of care only to pain reduction. You can also specify your wishes as to organ donation. Like a power of attorney, a health care directive can always be revoked by you – assuming you are not already in a crisis situation and lack capacity to communicate your wishes.

After Death—Your Remains

One critical aspect of the health care directive is your ability to explain your wishes for the disposal of your remains upon your death. For some people, it is important that they be cremated (or not), buried in a specific area, or have their ashes spread in a certain location, or have other expectations met. The directive is one place to make these wishes clear. A health care directive can be particularly important if your spouse/partner and your biological family have different ideas about what is proper after your death. Having laid out your wishes, the person you designate in your health care directive is authorized by the directive to carry those wishes out.

Validating Your Directive

A health care directive must either be notarized or signed by two witnesses in order to be valid.

Health-Care Agent Rights

In 2007, the Minnesota Legislature approved OutFront Minnesota-supported changes to statutes relating to health-care directives. Now, a designated health-care agent is guaranteed the right to visit a patient in virtually all circumstances, regardless of whether or not the patient needs someone to make decisions on their behalf. Additionally, health-care facilities now must offer patients the opportunity to complete such a designation, meaning that conscious patients are now able to identify their partner, designate them as a health-care agent, and (with few exceptions) guarantee their ability to visit the patient in the facility.


This information is not intended to constitute or replace legal advice: always consult your attorney before drafting or signing documents which affect your legal rights.