Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Advance Medical Directive: The Basics

Advance medical directives are legal documents designed to outline a person's wishes and preferences in regard to medical treatments, interventions and other health care related issues. Policies may vary from state to state, but regardless of location, advance directives should always be included with each individual's personal medical records.

Advanced directives typically fall into three categories:

  • Do Not Resuscitate Order: This legal document, also known as DNR, is extremely valuable for determining end-of-life issues. A DNR order, however, is not legal until signed by the patient, a witness and a physician. It should also be dated correctly and clearly state whether the patient wants to be resuscitated or not if their heart stops beating.

  • Living Will: This written document stipulates what kinds of medical treatment the patient recommends should they become incapacitated. It can be either general or very specific depending on the person and how adamant they are about their end-of-life care issues. The usual items outlined in a living will include: whether they wish to be on life support, receive tube feedings, length of time (if any) that they will stay on breathing machines, the individual that will make decisions on their behalf, etc.

  • Durable Power of Attorney: This type of advance directive allows an individual the opportunity to designate someone, or a number of individuals, to act on their behalf for specific affairs. A durable power of attorney, or DPOA, has the ability to make bank transactions, sign social security checks, apply for disability, or even write checks to pay utility bills while an individual is medically incapacitated. Once the document is signed, the DPOA has legal priority even over next of kin.

When Should a Directive be Created?

You will see an advanced medical directive used for several different situations-such as when someone is having a major surgery, diagnosed with a life-threatening illness or is even becoming a single parent. Advance medical directives are extremely beneficial if an individual is unable to make his or her own medical decisions. Whatever the reason, all advance medical directives should be signed by an attorney and be notarized.

How to Obtain an Advance Medical Directive

Luckily, there are many ways that someone can obtain an advance medical directive. Many companies have booklets available, social workers and nurses usually have them on hand, and hospitals and attorneys also have copies of directives. It is worth the effort to ask for an advance medical directive as it will be invaluable during a medical dilemma.

By having previously documented personal wishes and preferences, the burden of making tough decisions for family's and physicians' is lessened. Not to mention, the patient's autonomy and dignity will more likely be preserved by following their own choices regardless of mental or physical capacity.

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