Healthcare Directives



Other common terms for the healthcare directives include “living will,”
“advanced directives” or “health care power of attorney.”

Healthcare directive is a written document you can write regarding your wishes about medical treatments given in advance of an incapacitating illness. A healthcare directive then gives direction to your family and physician about what decisions you would want made. A health care directive is used when you cannot communicate your decisions for yourself.

West River Health Services (WRHS) supports your right to make informed decisions about medical care. WRHS has policies and procedures in place to ensure that each patient’s health care directive is honored. These policies follow the laws of North Dakota.

What is the Patient Self-Determination Act?

The Patient Self-Determination Act is a federal law that requires health care providers to educate their patients and the community on issues related to health care directives.

It requires all facilities certified by Medicare and Medicaid to furnish written information so that patients have the opportunity to express their wishes regarding the use or refusal of medical care, including life-prolonging treatment, nutrition and hydration.

The federal law takes no stand on what decisions persons should make. It does not require persons to have a health care directive.

How do I get started?

Before writing down your instructions, you should talk to those people closest to you and who are concerned about your care and feelings. Discuss your wishes with your family, your doctor, friends and other appropriate people, such as a member of your clergy or your lawyer. These are the people who will be involved with your health care, if you are unable to make your own decisions.

It is never too early to begin this decision making process; you shouldn’t postpone it until you are seriously ill or in the hospital. Completing a form is less complicated when completing it at home.

When you are a patient, the physicians and nurses can serve as resources for you. They are available to answer your questions about the forms, and help you with concerns. They cannot provide legal advice; you would have to consult an attorney for answers to specific legal questions.

  • North Dakota forms are available at WRHS upon your request. You do not need an attorney to develop a health care directive.
  • If you have completed a health care directive, it is important that WRHS has a copy on your chart. If you bring a copy, we will make duplicates for your medical record. A copy should also be discussed and given to your agent/health care power of attorney. A health care directive can be changed or revoked by you at any time.
  • If you are admitted for care at WRHS a nurse will be asking you about any choices you have made regarding health care directives. It is required by law that we ask you if you have a health care directive and provide you with this information.

North Dakota Law

Any living will or health care power of attorney created prior to August 1, 2005 will remain valid.

Who will speak for you if you can't speak for yourself?  

To download the printable form, click below.

Making Health Care Decisions in North Dakota (PDF)