Honoring a Patient’s Advance Directives at UW Health
What are Advance Directives?
These are legal forms that allow adult patients to state their health care wishes. These papers let
others know about your wishes and can help guide your medical care in the event you are unable
to make your own decisions in the future. There are two kinds of advance directives – the Power
of Attorney for Health Care and the Living Will.
The Power of Attorney for Health Care allows you to name the person(s) that you want to make
health care decisions for you, in the event that you are unable to understand your health care or
to express your wishes. The document can be helpful whenever you might be unable to
communicate your wishes, whether short-term due to illness or injury, or at the end of life.
The Living Will (Declaration to Physicians) allows you to state your care wishes, if you have a
terminal condition or you are in a vegetative state (permanent coma).
If you would like more information or wish to complete one of these forms, please ask your
nurse or social worker, or contact Patient Relations at 263-8009.
Can Advance Directives be changed?
Yes. To update your Advance Directive, just complete a new form. If you want to cancel it,
please talk with your social worker or Patient Relations at 263-8009.
Who makes medical decisions when a patient can no longer do so?
Patients who have a Power of Attorney for Health Care will have a health care agent. Most often,
this is a family member or close friend. When doctors determine patients can no longer make
their own medical decisions, the health care agents will be asked to do so.
When patients don’t have a Power of Attorney for Health Care, we ask family members to make
decisions on the patient’s behalf unless a guardian has been appointed by the Court to make
What are UW Health’s policies on end-of-life matters?
UW Health honors patients’ advance directives to the extent allowable by law.
Adult patients who can make their own decisions have a right to refuse or stop any and all forms
of medical treatment. This includes life-sustaining medical treatment, such as dialysis, breathing
machines (ventilators), feeding tubes, and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).
At UW Health we do all we can to promote health. If your heart stops beating or you stop
breathing, we will attempt CPR unless you and your doctor have decided that you do not want
CPR. If you make that decision, your doctor will write a Do Not Resuscitate Order (DNR) in
your medical record. If you do not want CPR, please be sure to talk with the doctor caring for
you to request that an order be written each time you are hospitalized.
If you have a DNR Order and are planning to have surgery, please talk with your doctor about
the status of your DNR Order. Generally, DNR Orders are not in effect while a patient is in
Patients who won’t benefit from CPR due to a medical condition may ask their doctors to write
an Out of Hospital DNR Order. Patients who have this type of DNR Order wear a special
wristband when they are not in the hospital. The wristband lets emergency medical service staff
know of the patient’s wish not to be resuscitated in the event of a cardiac or respiratory arrest.
According to state law, these orders are valid only in Wisconsin.
If a patient has a life-threatening emergency in one of our clinics, the patient will likely be
transported to the UW Hospital Emergency Department. This action allows patients to receive
or refuse life-sustaining care should they so choose and provides for patient comfort. All
patients wearing an Out of Hospital DNR wristband will receive comfort measures only during
The Ethics Committee can help patients, families, and members of the health care team talk
about ethical issues that may arise in the care of patients such as not starting or stopping life-
sustaining treatment. To talk with someone from the Ethics Committee, call Patient Relations at
Please talk with your social worker or call the Learning Center at 26-LEARN or the Patient
Relations Department at 263-8009.
If you are in the hospital and you wish for further details, a video can be viewed at 9:00 am,
11:00 am, 1:00 pm, 3:00 pm, 5:00 pm, 7:00 pm and 9:00 pm on Channel 2. This video is
brought to you by the Friends of UW Hospitals and Clinics.
Spanish HFFY #6260
Your health care team may have given you this information as part of your care. If so, please use it and call if you
have any questions. If this information was not given to you as part of your care, please check with your doctor. This
is not medical advice. This is not to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Because each
person’s health needs are different, you should talk with your doctor or others on your health care team when using
this information. If you have an emergency, please call 911. Copyright ©8/2015. University of Wisconsin Hospitals
and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#6162