Advance Directives

This Advance Directives (AD) information is supplied by the Vermont Ethics Network and Vermont Department Of Health. The Advance Directive, a right for all patients, is a legal document that allows you to appoint someone you trust (called your “agent”) to make a broad range of healthcare decisions for you in the case that you become unable to make those decisions for yourself. The directive helps to instruct your agent to request all appropriate care or to limit some types of care. You may also share your treatment wishes even if you have not appointed an agent.

An advance directive is actually any communication from you, whether verbal or in writing, that speaks about your future wishes for health care. If you speak with your doctor, he or she can note these wishes on the medical chart or plan of care. If your directives are part of a written document you prepared, they can be made part of your permanent medical record. Advance directives help determine your care when you can’t speak for yourself. Because they express your values, they provide the best possible guidance to those who will make decisions about your care. You may also cancel your advance directive if you change your mind or change your previous directives at any time.

The Vermont Ethics Network has developed a form in accordance with Vermont law. (Scroll down for contact information.) You can fill out advance directives on your own, as long as the forms are properly witnessed. You don’t need a notary or a lawyer, although you should feel free to consult a private lawyer or, if you qualify, the Vermont Legal Aid office nearest you (call 1-800-642-5119 for information).

  • Anyone 18 years of age or older and are capable of understanding the nature and consequences of their medical care decisions (have the “capacity” to make medical decisions) can prepare an advance directive.
  • Anyone who is 18 years of age or older can serve as your agent. Your health care or residential care provider cannot be your agent and health care provider at the same time, unless that person is a relative.
  • The Advance Directive form must be signed in the presence of two qualified witnesses, who also must sign (they cannot be your agent you have named, or anyone that is involved in your medical care).
  • Your doctor is legally required to follow your directives as closely as possible. If your doctor disagrees with your wishes, he or she must help find another physician willing to follow your instructions.
  • If you change you mind when you are faced with an emergency or other situation, then your advance directive no longer applies and should be destroyed.
  • Other states will honor an out-of-state advance directive, but some may require that it conform to their own laws. If you are expecting to be treated out-of-state, you may check directly with the state or contact the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO) at 1700 Diagonal Road, Suite 625, Alexandria, VA 22314 (1-800-658-8898) for more information.
  • You are still empowered to make your own medical decisions as long as you are able to do so and can communicate your wishes with an advance directive. Your agent’s authority begins only when you lack the capacity to make your own decisions, as certified by your doctor.

For more information on advance directives or for your own copy of the booklet “Taking Steps” that includes an advance directives form, contact:

Vermont Ethics Network
64 Main St. Room 25, Montpelier VT 05602-2951
Phone: 1-802-828-2909, email:

Vermont Department of Health also offers a free service to all Vermonters who wish to register their AD (this is not required but can help get your documents to healthcare providers). Information and forms, including the Advance Directives form, can be found at:

Vermont Advance Directives Registry (VADR):

The registry will electronically scan and store your advance directive in a web-based electronic database. You, your agent, or provider can easily and securely access your documents over the internet. The registry can be an important tool to help get your document into the hands of people who need it.

How to Register Your Advance Directive:

  1. Complete and sign the Registration Agreement form and mail or fax it, along with a copy of your advance directive to: Vermont Advance Directive Registry, 523 Westfield Ave. PO Box 2789, Westfield, NJ 07091-2789 or (FAX) 908-654-1919.
  2. The Registration Agreement form and optional Advance Directive forms are available at If you are unable to access the website, you can call the Vermont Department of Health (1-802-863-7300) to have the forms mailed to your home.
  3. After processing your documents, the registry will mail you a welcome package including a confirmation letter, a registration ID number on a wallet card, labels with registry contact information, along with instructions for accessing the registry, viewing the documents, and making changes.
  4. Once a year the registry will contact you by mail to confirm that your Advance Directive information is accurate and current. Be sure you notify the registry if you change your Advance Directive or make other changes (e.g., contact information).