What You Should Know About Advance Healthcare Directives


Sep 10, 2018

You most likely have heard about advance healthcare directives, but do you realize the importance of having your own in place? An advance healthcare directive details what actions you would like taken regarding your health, medical treatments, and final wishes if you become unable to make these decisions due to injury, illness or mental incapacity.

Advance healthcare directives have legal status in the United States and typically include a living will and a durable healthcare power of attorney.  It is very important to ensure that you have made certain end-of-life care and urgent health-related decisions while you are still able to think clearly and are in good physical health. Advance healthcare directives ensure that your individual choices can be carried out if you become unable to make these decisions. Having advance healthcare directives such as a living will in place can help to prevent prolonged, painful, expensive and emotional burdensome issues from arising during end-of-life treatment or regarding urgent medical decisions. A living will is a written document that allows you to express how you want to be treated in certain situations such as being terminally ill, mentally incapacitated or suffering from life-threatening injuries. You may wish to have all medical intervention possible, or you may decide to forgo certain types of life-sustaining treatment such as ventilators or heart-lung machines. It is crucial that you take your time and make sure that you are comfortable with what you are signing. It is advised to consult with a lawyer.

Advance healthcare directives are not set in stone and can be changed and updated. It is important to check with State laws to make sure that your advance healthcare directives are in place and up-to-date.  All states allow you to make your wishes known in regard to medical treatment for terminal illnesses or specific injuries. Some states will allow you to create your own document and others will have a standardized form in place. It is extremely important to thoroughly review any documentation that you will be signing to ensure it meets your needs and wishes.

An advance healthcare directive allows you to appoint someone as a healthcare proxy or durable power of attorney for health care. A durable power of attorney for health care is someone you trust to manage your health care decisions and other important affairs. A durable power of attorney for health care can go into effect immediately or be in place for future needs, such as if you become incapacitated and can no longer make these decisions for yourself. If you do not have a durable power of attorney for health care the following people are authorized legally to make decisions for you: a court-appointed guardian, spouse, adult children, siblings, a close friend or living relative. You should give a copy of your advance healthcare directives to your primary healthcare physician and family members.

It is important to check in your own state what is required for advance healthcare directives.

Questions and Answers

Q: Why do I need an advanced healthcare directive?

A: An advance healthcare directive allows you to have your healthcare wishes in place prior to life-threatening injury or incapacitating illness. It is a legal document that states what type of healthcare treatment you want. There are two basic kinds of directives including a living will and a healthcare proxy.

Q: What is a living will?

A: A living will is a legal document that allows you to state what kind of health care and treatment you want and what you don’t want under certain medical circumstances.

Q: What is a health care proxy?

A: A health care proxy is also known as a durable healthcare power of attorney. It is a legal document that allows you to name someone that you trust to make decisions about your health care if you become unable to make healthcare decisions for yourself due to injury, illness or mental incapacity.

Q: When does an advance healthcare directive become effective?

A: An advance healthcare directive becomes effective based your inability to make decisions regarding your own health.

Q: What are the benefits of advance healthcare directives?

A:  An advance healthcare directive can provide you with peace of mind. You will be assured knowing your final wishes are secure and known before you become ill or unable to make sound decisions. Advance healthcare directives also provide security and the power of choice because they are confidential and can be updated at any time. Having advance healthcare directives in place also allows you to make your decisions known so that your family and healthcare professionals will know how to treat you based on your wishes, rather than having the burden put on others to make such crucial decisions.

Q: Does having an advance directive in place affect life insurance, health insurance or government benefits?

A: No, having advance healthcare directives in place does not affect life insurance, health insurance or government benefits.

Q: Can you be forced to have an advance healthcare directive by your health insurance company or by healthcare providers?

A: No.

Q: What happens if I become able to make my own decisions again?

A: If you become able to make your own decisions clearly again your consent must be obtained for all treatment. Your appointed healthcare representative will no longer have the power to make decisions for you.

Q: What does “life-sustaining treatment” mean?

A: Life-sustaining treatment refers to medical procedures, treatments, and devices that are used to restore or take over a vital bodily function. Common types of medical devices and procedures used for life-sustaining treatment include medications, ventilators, surgery, assisted nutrition and therapy.
 


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