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E. Understanding the Role of Advance Directives

Narrator: This is Science Today. At some point, we may be faced with a situation where we are unable to make our own medical decisions, it's important to designate someone we trust to make those decisions for us. One way of doing this is through an advance directive, a written document that names the person we'd like to make decisions in our place, and specifies treatments we wouldn't want. But according to Felicia Cohn, director of medical ethics at the University of California Irvine College of Medicine, not everyone knows how or takes the time to create an advance directive.

Cohn: Every patient is supposed to be asked when they are admitted if they have an advance directive, and if they do not they are supposed to be offered the opportunity to create one, but that doesn't necessarily result in any more advanced directives.

Narrator: The reason, Cohn says is that young, healthy individuals simply have other things on their minds.

Cohn: You go into the hospital for a knee replacement or to repair a torn ligament, or to have a baby, and an advance directive is not going to be at the forefront of your mind, you are not expecting to die on that admission.

Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin