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National Center for Ethics in Health Care


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Health Care Ethics Resources for Veterans, Patients, and Families

When faced with difficult decisions about health care, Veterans and their families often struggle with the question of "what should be done?" The best choice for one patient may be the wrong choice for another.

These resources can help Veterans and their loved ones deal with tough decisions about health care and how to plan for it.



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Planning Ahead for Future Health Care Decisions

VA Advance Directive Form - VA's official document for writing down your preferences for future health care in case you are unable to communicate those decisions for yourself. Includes a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care and Living Will.

Your Rights Regarding Advance Directives - one-page fact sheet explains your rights related to advance directives.

What You Should Know About Advance Directives - one-page fact sheet provides information about advance directives and why you would use one.

Setting Health Care Goals: A Guide for People with Health Problems  - Do you have a serious illness, or are you at risk of developing one? It’s important to think ahead about what would matter to you most if you became more ill. Different people want different things. This booklet can help you talk with your health care team and your family about what matters most to you, so you get the services and treatments that best match your own values and preferences.

Planning Ahead for Mental Health Care

Preferences Worksheet - four-page worksheet guides patients through the process of recording their mental health care choices so that their spokesperson, loved ones, and health care providers clearly understand their wishes.

Who to Contact Worksheet - four-page worksheet enables patients to document their emergency contacts and who their health care providers should (and should not) contact in the event of a medical emergency or mental health crisis.

Informed Consent

What You Need to Know About Informed Consent - explains your rights to make decisions about your own health care and what it means to give informed consent about a treatment or procedure.

Podcasts - Dialed In: Helping Veterans Take Control of Their Health Care

A podcast series designed to help Veterans and their families as they face difficult ethical decisions about health care.

What's An Advance Directive, and Why Should I Complete One? (6:35)

Choosing A Health Care Agent (5:36) 

I've Been Chosen as A Health Care Agent - Now What? (4:50)

Informed Consent Empowers Veterans (4:47)

Setting Health Care Goals When You Have A Serious Illness (5:56)

Would CPR Be Right for Me? (4:51)

Mechanical Ventilation — An Option for Breathing Problems (6:05) 

Asking for an Ethics Consultation

Not Sure What to Do? Ask for an Ethics Consultation - brochure explains why you would request an ethics consultation and how to request one at your local VA health care facility.

Ethics Consultation Brochure (Spanish)

Managing Chronic Pain

Safe and Responsible Use of Opioids for Chronic Pain: A Patient Information Guide - Patient Information Guide on Long-term Opioid Therapy for Chronic Pain

Your Rights and Responsibilities

Rights and Responsibilities of VA Patients and Residents of Community Living Centers

Rights and Responsibilities of Family Members of VA Patients and Residents of Community Living Centers

Other Useful Links

My HealtheVet - VA's online personal health record, helping Veterans partner with the VA health care team. Provides opportunities and tools for Veterans to make informed decisions and manage their health care.

I CARE— VA has adopted Core Values and Characteristics that apply universally across the department. The five Core Values define "who we are," our culture, and how we care for Veterans, their families, and other beneficiaries. The Values are Integrity, Commitment, Advocacy, Respect and Excellence ("I CARE").


The National Center for Ethics in Health Care is dedicated to the belief that Veterans and their loved ones should experience the Veterans Health Administration as a highly ethical organization. Our mission is to clarify and promote ethical health care practices throughout VHA and nationwide. Guided by the premise that ethical health care practice is an essential component of health care quality, we are a resource for VHA leaders and staff on issues in clinical, organizational, and research ethics.