Monday, September 2, 2013

What is an Advanced Directive?

It is not mandatory to have an advanced directive. No one can force you to prepare one.

There are two types of advance directives - living wills and durable power of attorney for health care.

Living wills are a legal document that you prepare to make your wishes known regarding health care issues and specifically end of life issues. They are implemented when you can no longer make decisions on your own.

A durable power of attorney for health care is when you appoint someone (a spouse, parent, sibling, friend, etc.) to make decisions (relating to health care) when you can no longer make decisions for yourself.

The person you appoint to make decisions for you is your "patient advocate". Your patient advocate can be any competent person over the age of 18. Before you appoint someone to be your advocate you should ask if they are willing to serve in this capacity.

Being a patient advocate is a very great responsibility. They will be able to make decisions for you concerning all medical treatments (and the right to refuse medical treatments on your behalf). They can also make decisions related to donation of your organs after you die.

It is important to appoint a back up person should your original appointee be unable or unwilling to make your decisions should the time come.

It is not necessary to use a lawyer to prepare either of these documents, but to be legal they must be witnessed by persons other than your relatives (spouses or heirs).

Once prepared you should make several copies. You should give a copy to your physician (or other health care provider). And should you be admitted to the hospital, you should take a copy with you. This is one document that should not keep secret.

Can I Change My Mind?

Yes, you certainly can. It is simply a matter of tearing up the document and notifying anyone that has a copy to tear it up.

You can prepare a new living will or durable power of attorney for health care at any time.

Who Should Prepare An Advanced Directive?

Everyone. No one can tell when a major life upset will occur. Everyone should have these documents prepared.

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