Content on this page requires a newer version of Adobe Flash Player.

Get Adobe Flash player

Advanced Directives
Living Will and Durable Power
of Attorney for Healthcare

Questions and Answers about Your Healthcare Decisions
The following information is designed to assist you in formulating decisions about Advance Directives. We advise that you inform family members and others who might be involved in your care about the existence of an advance directive-Living Will, or Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare and that copies of those documents be given to persons you think should be aware of their content.

Healthcare decisions, and especially Advance Directives, should not be prepared in haste. You should give thoughtful consideration to your beliefs and wishes about your healthcare and especially death and dying.

What is a living will?

A Living Will is a written consent in which you state whether you want life-prolonging treatment used or withheld if you become terminally ill and are not able to make decisions for yourself. It will become effective only when you have a terminal condition and cannot communicate your own decisions.

What is Durable Power of Attorney?

A Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare is an Advance Directive that becomes effective when an individual, in the physician's judgment, is temporarily unable to make or communicate healthcare decisions.

Who can make an advance directive?

Any competent person 18 years or older, can make an advance directive. Advance Directives are not only for older persons; they are helpful for people of all ages.

Why should I write an Advance Directive?

An Advance Directive helps your family and physician know the kind of medical treatment that you want or do not want if you cannot speak for yourself. Advance Directives are legally enforceable. It helps to avoid family disagreements, guilty feelings, and doubts about how to treat you when you are unable to communicate the treatment you wish or do not wish to receive.

What is a terminal condition?

A terminal condition, as defined by Minnesota law, is an incurable or irreversible condition for which the administration of medical treatment will only prolong the dying process. This broad definition covers many types of illness or injury, such as cancer, car accidents, and many other incapacitating illnesses.

How do I write an Advance Directive?
Living Will/Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare Minnesota provides a special form that may be used.

Can I revoke or change my Advance Directive?
You may change or revoke these documents at any time. Any alterations and any written revocation should be signed and dated, and copies should be given to your family, physician, and other appropriate people. Even without an official written change, your orally expressed direction to your physician generally has priority over any statement made in an Advance Directive.

What if I don’t have an Advance Directive?

The absence of an Advance Directive will not influence the quality of medical care provided. If you do not have an Advance Directive and become unable to make healthcare decisions, your physician and family will seek to honor your wishes as best they can, and together will decide your course of treatment. See the following summary of Minnesota law in respect to your rights to make healthcare decisions: Summary of Minnesota Law on Patient's/Resident's Rights to Make Healthcare Decisions.

Consent to treatment: An informed decision

The primary right to all competent adult persons, is the right to consent to treatment; that is, the right to be free from unwanted bodily contact. In the context of medical treatment, the right to consent includes the right to be informed, prior to giving consent of information pertinent to the consent decisions. This includes complete and current information concerning diagnosis, treatment, alternatives, risks, and prognosis. An individual also has a right to revoke his/her consent previously given.

Right to refuse treatment
Under Minnesota statutory law, competent persons have the right to refuse treatment based on the information required in order to make an informed decision.

Advance Directives (AD)

Minnesota statutory law allows competent adults to give advance instruction concerning their own healthcare. A "Living Will" becomes operative if the individual has a terminal condition and becomes unable to participate in decisions regarding his/her treatment. A "Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare" becomes operative when the physician determines an inability to make healthcare decisions for self. This may be temporary. An Advance Directive can be revoked at any time, regardless of the patient's physical or mental condition (i.e., competence). Failure to execute an Advance Directive or to designate an agent/proxy does not create a presumption concerning the individual's intentions regarding his/her course of treatment or the appropriate treatment to be provided.

A competent adult may also make a declaration as to his/her instructions regarding intrusive mental health treatment, which is defined as electroshock therapy or neuroleptic medication. Unlike a Living Will, and Advance Mental Healthcare Directive can be revoked only be a competent patient. To obtain the Mental Health Directive, call the Minnesota Health Law Project at 1-800-292-4150.


Minors have the right to make healthcare decisions in the following limited situations:

  1. the minor is living apart from his/her parents or legal guardian and is managing his/her own financial affairs, or,
  2. the minor is being seen to receive treatment for pregnancy, conditions associated with pregnancy, venereal disease, or alcohol substance abuse, or,
  3. the minor is or has been married or has borne a child.
Emergency conditions, in which immediate medical treatment is indicated, obviate the need for consent if it is impossible or impractical to obtain consent because delay would endanger the patient's life, health, or safety.

To Obtain Additional Information Contact:
Minnesota Board on Aging: 1-800-882-6262
Minnesota Senior Federation: 1-800-365-8765
Minnesota Hospital and Healthcare Partnership: 1-800-462-5393
Minnesota Office of Ombudsman for Older Minnesotans: 1-800-657-3591