FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

What is the Advance Directive?

Oregon’s Advance Directive is the legal document that allows you to make your health care wishes known if you are unable to speak for yourself. The Advance Directive can serve one or both of these purposes:

  • Health Care Representative (legally appoint a person to speak for  you)
  • Directions Regarding End of Life Care (to indicate your wishes)

 Why should I complete an Advance Directive?

The Advance Directive offers peace of mind. If you are 18 or older you should consider completing an Advance Directive. You never know when you may unexpectedly be in a position where you cannot speak for yourself, such an accident or illness. In these situations having an Advance Directive can ease the stress on family members and loved ones if they are faced with critical decisions about your care.

If I appoint a Health Care Representative, what can that person do?

Your representative can make all decisions for you, just like you would if you could. They can choose your doctor and where you will receive your care, speak with your health team, review your medical record and authorize its release, accept or refuse all medical treatments and make arrangements for you when you die. You need to talk to your representative regarding all of these matters (and document them in your Directions Regarding My End of Life Care) so he/she knows what you want. The more information you give them the easier it will be when they have to make these decisions for you.

When does my Health Care Representative make decisions for me?

Your representative will make decisions for you if you can’t make them for yourself.  However, if you want, your representative can speak on your behalf at any time, even if you are still capable of making your own decisions.

What if I don’t want to appoint a Health Care Representative or don’t have someone to appoint?

You do not have to appoint a Health Care Representative. If you choose not to have one, you can still complete part 4 “Directions Regarding My End of Life Care”. This will give your doctors the information they need to guide your care.

Can I have more than one Health Care Representative?

Family members are usually involved in the decision-making process and the majority of the time that works well. Occasionally, people will disagree about what is best. Oregon’s law allows one person as your Health Care Representative and two alternates in case your representative is not available. You can also indicate on your form if there is someone who you do NOT want to make decisions for you.

Will my Health Care Representative be responsible for my medical bills?


Don’t doctors make all of the life-and-death decisions?

Doctors will tell you about your medical condition, and what your treatment options are. They can provide guidance, but the decision to have a treatment, refuse a treatment or stop a treatment is yours.

Can my physician supersede my Health Care Representative’s Instructions?

Your Health Care Representative has the authority to speak for you. If your physician or health care facility is unable or unwilling to carry out your wishes, your representative may transfer you to the care of another physician or facility.

Do I need a Lawyer to help me complete my Advance Directive?

No. The law does not require an attorney to complete an Advance Directive. The most important part of completing your Advance Directive is to talk with your loved ones. Without having the conversation, your form may not be helpful.

Who can witness my Advance Directive?

Two witnesses or a notary are required to witness your Advance Directive. Be sure to read the witnessing requirements carefully under part 6 “WITNESS”.

Who Can Be My Witnesses if I Live in a Nursing Home?

If you live in a nursing home when you sign your Advance Directive, one of the witnesses must be an individual designated by the nursing home. Your second witness must not be a relative, anyone entitled to a part of your estate upon death, or an owner/employee of the nursing home. Your second witness can be a friend, pastor, neighbor, nursing home roommate, volunteer, etc.

Is my Advance Directive good in other states?

Many states have their own form of the Advance Directive and they may or may not honor Oregon’s although it would certainly carry weight as an expression of your wishes. If you reside part-time in another state, it would be a good idea to obtain that state’s official forms and complete them. Oregon does honor other state’s forms for non-residents.

What is a POLST form?

POLST is a medical order for those with advanced illness or frailty. A POLST should be completed with your doctor to direct the kinds of treatment you may want in a medical crisis. A POLST form does not replace the Advance Directive.

What do I do with my Advance Directive once I have completed it?

Once you have signed your Advance Directive and it has been witnessed, keep the original and make copies for your Health Care Representative and your medical providers. You may want to consider giving a copy to family, friends, and attorney if you have one. Be sure to keep the original for yourself in a visible, easy-to-find location.

What if I change my mind? 

You can change your choices at anytime. The best way to make changes is to complete a new Advance Directive, including signature and witnesses and/or notary public. Inform all those that need to know about your new Advance Directive.

Do doctors or hospitals require a patient to have an Advance Directive?

No, they cannot require you to complete one. Doctors and hospitals should have information available for you about the Advance Directive and your right to make health care decisions.