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Advance Health Care Directives 101

Who Should I Give Copies Of My Healthcare Power Of Attorney, Living Will and Do Not Resuscitate Order?

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Advance Directives are meaningless if the right people aren't aware that they exist when they are needed. 

Living Will and Do Not Resuscitate Order (DNR)

Give a copy of your living will and DNR to each of the following:

  • Appropriate family members who are likely to be accessible and aware of your condition should you become unable to communicate.
  • Your Healthcare Proxy and alternate Healthcare Proxy if you have designated one. (f you haven't, please consider doing so.)
  • Each of your medical providers, including every specialist and your primary treating doctor.
  • Any other health care providers that may need to be aware of its existence, such as home health services.
  • Every medical facility you enter, such as a hospital or nursing home. (Be sure the copy is entered into your medical record.)


  • Keep a copy with your valuable papers, and one in your Emergency Tote Bag in case you go to the hospital in a hurry.
  • Keep a copy of your Living Will and or DNR, or at least a card or notation that you have such documents and how to find them quickly, in your wallet in case you travel or in case of an unexpected trip to the emergency room.
  • Consider using the American Bar Association's smart phone app which allows you to carry your directives with you in your phone so they are immediately available for emergencies or any time you interact with the health care system. To learn about the app, click here offsite link.

If your state requires a bracelet to effectuate a DNR, it is advisable to wear the bracelet.

If you have a DNR:

  • In case you have an emergency at home, in order to avoid emergency personnel going against your wishes, consider posting the DNR in a place where any emergency personnel will see it. 
  • Also consider instructing your caregivers not to call 911. If they call, emegency personnel are usually required to do what they can to revive you, even if they are handed a copy of a DNR.

Healthcare Power Of Attorney 

Give a copy of your healthcare power of attorney to all of the above plus:

  • Your pharmacist (to permit an exchange of information with the person named as your Proxy without worry about invasion of your privacy)
  • Your attorney in case any questions are asked about the person's authority to act.

Keep a list of the people to whom you give a copy of your Advance Directives in case you later revoke or change any of them. If you keep the list with your important papers, you'll always know where it is. Consider keeping the list in THE Book. (For more information on THE Book, see "To Learn More.")

You can register your Living Will online to make it easier for people to access. Registration assures a copy can be found when needed. It is also helpful if you travel.

Google Health has a free online registration service at offsite link.

You can also register your Living Will and other Advance Directives for a fee at an online service such as U.S. Living Will Registry ( offsite link Tel.: 800.548.9455 or MedicAlert, offsite link

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