Making an Advance Directive

Living Will and Power of Attorney for Health Care Forms

There are two ways to make a formal Advance Directive in Wisconsin. You can complete either a Power of Attorney for Health Care and/or a Living Will. It is best to have a Power of Attorney for Health Care (POAHC) document as this document designates someone to make decisions for you in the event you are unable to make decisions for yourself. You do not need a lawyer to complete these forms. 

These forms are available free of charge at Froedtert Health locations through the Health Information Management department. However, the State of Wisconsin requires two 'defined' persons to witness your signature on the forms. If you complete the forms at home, the witnesses must be at least 18 years old, not related to you, and not benefiting from your estate.

Power of Attorney for Health Care (POAHC)

The Power of Attorney for Health Care is a document in which you appoint another person known as a health care agent, to make health care decisions for you in the event you are not capable of making them for yourself. When you complete this document, you give authority to your health care agent to make a wide range of decisions for you, such as whether or not you should have an operation, receive certain medications, have a feeding tube placed or be placed on a life support system. 

In some areas of health care, your health care agent is not allowed to make decisions for you unless you give him or her specific authority in these areas when you complete the proper forms. These areas are:

  • Admission to long-term care facilities
  • Limitations on mental health treatment
  • health care decisions for pregnant women
  • Pregnancy care
  • Provision of a feeding tube

It is important to discuss your treatment preferences with your health care agent. You can include specific instructions about the type of treatments you want or don't want when you complete the form.

A Power of Attorney for Health Care goes in effect only when two physicians, or a physician and a psychologist, agree in writing that you can no longer understand your treatment options or express your health care choices to others.  

Living Wills

A Living Will is a document that informs your physician that you want to die naturally should you develop an illness or injury that is terminal or you are in a persistent vegetative state. A Living Will allows you to refuse treatment or machines which may keep your heart, lungs or kidneys functioning when they are unable to function on their own. A Living Will may also communicate your choices about feeding tubes and other life-sustaining procedures.

A Living Will goes into effect only when two physicians, one of whom is your attending physician, agree in writing that you are either near death and are unable to understand or express your health care choices, or are in a persistent vegetative state that cannot be reversed. The implementation of a Living Will becomes the responsibility of your physician, not your family.

The Difference between a Living Will and Power of Attorney for Health Care

A Living Will goes into effect only when your death is very near or when you are in a persistent vegetative state and have no cognitive abilities to make medical decisions. It deals only with the use or non-use of life sustaining measures.   

A Power of Attorney for Health Care also goes into effect when you can no longer make health care decisions, but you do not have to be close to death or in a vegetative state. The Power of Attorney for Health Care allows another person to speak for you and make health care decisions for you that are not limited to life sustaining measures. The type of decisions this person can make depends upon the extent of authority you give when you complete the form.

When there is a conflict between what you direct in a Living Will and what you direct in a Power of Attorney, the Power of Attorney takes precedence.