Health Care Directive
What is a Health Care Directive?
A Health Care Directive is comprised of a Living Will and Medical Power of Attorney.
A directive allows you to plan your medical treatment in advance should there ever comes a time when you are unable to express your personal health care wishes.
A Health Care Directive is also known as:
- Advance Directive
- Personal Directive
- Advance Decision
- Medical Directive
- Living Will
What is a Medical Power of Attorney?
A Medical Power of Attorney is a document used to appoint someone to make medical decisions on your behalf.
A Medical Power of Attorney is also known as:
- Health Care Power of Attorney
- Health Care Proxy
- Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care
- Health Care Representative
What is a Living Will?
A Living Will is a document that you use to indicate your medical wishes in the event you are incapacitated or cannot consent to your health care treatment.
Living Will vs. Last Will and Testament
If you are unable to express your health care wishes in the future, hospitals and family will reference your Living Will as a statement of your medical wishes.
Alternatively, a Last Will and Testament is a document used to indicate how you would like your assets divided or children cared for after your death. You cannot specify medical treatment preferences with a Last Will.
Why should I create a Health Care Directive?
Without a Living Will, the burden of making your medical decisions falls on your family members. Creating a personal directive not only gives you control of your medical wishes but it saves your family from making tough treatment choices on your behalf.
Additionally, appointing a Medical Power of Attorney allows you to discuss your treatment wishes with someone you trust prior to any unforeseen medical circumstance so they can make health care decisions in your best interest.
Choosing a Medical Power of Attorney/Health Care Proxy
When appointing someone as your Medical Power of Attorney, you should choose someone who is trustworthy, has your best interests in mind, and will make your health care decisions according to your intended wishes.
What medical decisions can I make with a Living Will?
Every state has its own limits as to what you are legally permitted to include in your directive. While you may specify instructions for a variety of medical situations and describe your feelings towards quality of life, keep in mind health care providers will only be allowed to carry out certain procedures according to your state laws.
Here are some of the main treatment choices you will want to specify in your Living Will:
Life Support means any life-sustaining procedures done to a patient to restore function to an organ through medical intervention.
Common forms of life support include CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation), defibrillators, assisted breathing, dialysis, and artificially administered food and water.
DNR is short for "Do Not Resuscitate", which means you do not wish to receive life support or resuscitation if an organ fails.
Comfort care means healthcare professionals will use any means possible to relieve your pain, including administering medication or creating a comfortable environment for you to rest in.
Quality of Life
Many people define quality of life in their Living Will to notify their family and health care professionals as to what they may want in extreme health situations (life or death) and what constitutes a quality life for them.
When does my Health Care Directive come into effect?
The terms of your directive are binding once you sign the document. It comes into use when you have been found to be incapable of making your own medical decisions. Typically, this may be when you are incapacitated, in a coma, or in a vegetative state.
Can I make changes to my Health Care Directive?
You can make changes to your personal directive if you destroy your current one, notify your health care representative or hospital of your changes, and create and distribute a new directive. It's important to let everyone in your family know where you keep your advance directive so they can easily find it during an emergency.