According to the John Hopkins Medical Center, an advance directive can also be referred to as a “living will.” It is a written document that informs your health care providers who are responsible for making your medical decisions if you cannot speak for yourself. A living will is applicable in situations when you become unconscious or otherwise too sick to make your wishes known.
Each person has the option to decide whether to accept or decline medical care. The state and federal regulations grant you the legal right to make healthcare decisions in advance to fulfill your wishes. Some situations may arise that may require you to express your medical needs even though you are unable.
For instance, life-sustaining treatments that include breathing machines and feeding tubes. In these circumstances, it is important to have a representative that can speak on your behalf regarding your medical care and how to proceed.
The advanced directive lawyers can guide you in creating these documents to assist you when the above situations arise. The advanced directive lawyers will also inform the whole medical team on how to proceed with your health care. It is crucial to plan to prevent any complications and avoid unnecessary misunderstandings among the family.
What Does an Advance Directive Consist Of?
An advance directive has several components that include specific health care instructions to be given or to appoint others to make decisions as needed. First, it contains a living will, which is a written document describing what type of medical treatment you wish for in case you are deemed terminally ill or in a persistent vegetative state.
A living will inform the necessary healthcare providers to cease or abstain from performing certain medical or surgical treatments. Additionally, a physician must conclude that a person is no longer responsive and therefore considered terminally ill.
In these types of scenarios, power of attorney is crucial. In this legal document, you assign a healthcare agent on your behalf who will be responsible for making medical care decisions for you. You can have additional language in the document about when the document will go into effect, and the time you will need them to make your healthcare decisions.
Keep in mind that the selected healthcare agent will have the authority to execute your living will accordingly. Therefore, it is recommended to carefully evaluate each candidate for this position and determine who will stand to respect your medical values. Furthermore, select a representative who will adhere to your wishes and ensure your health care instructions are followed.
The healthcare instructions are another form of written advance directive that can be utilized solely or with the appointment of a health care agent. Health care instructions permit you to choose the treatment you want or do not want in the event you are in a terminal condition, persistent vegetative state, or end-stage condition. Furthermore, you can also include your wishes regarding being a donor for organs and other transfusions.
How Can I Create an Advance Directive?
Consulting with your family and your physician is a start. If you have certain strong opinions and beliefs regarding your end-of-life stage, then having your medical care match your values will be necessary. You can request your physician to include this in your advance directive as needed. If you are in a hospital, you can request your nurse to have a trained hospital representative, such as a chaplain or a social worker, discuss advance directives with you and provide the necessary forms.
All states have a process for this, and you can start by looking through the local county government website. Seeking professional legal help with advance directive lawyers can also help to navigate you in the right direction.
What Are the Different Types of Advance Directives?
Both oral and written advance directives can be utilized. Some components and procedures to consider once you decide to write or dictate one are described below. It must be done voluntarily, and the person must be competent to do it. The patient must sign and date it (or signed by their representative). There must be competent witnesses present, but this does not include the health care agent.
At least one witness must be someone who is not knowingly entitled to any portion of the person’s estate or knowingly entitled to any financial benefit from the death of the person. There are forms available for this process. This process also applies to the advance directives done orally. For further information on the procedures, you can research your local government website or seek help from a professional for more assistance on this.
What Is a Health Care Agent (Medical Power of Attorney)?
According to the Maryland Courts, a health care agent is a representative that will execute the medical care wishes of a person. The health care agent can also be named in a separate document called a Health Care Power of Attorney. They can be included in the advance directive to inform the health care providers. Generally, this individual tends to be a close friend or a family member.
The law specifies the healthcare agent’s legal obligations. The agent must adhere to and follow any specific terms the patient included in the advance directive. The following are some considerations for the agent to examine:
- Religious beliefs of the patient and personal values.
- The express wishes of the patient regarding their medical needs.
- The current diagnosis and prognosis with and without treatment.
- The patient’s attitude and past condition on the long-term treatment or medical concerns.
- The patient’s past reactions to providing, withholding, or withdrawing similar treatment for another person.
How Will This Impact the Patient’s Loved Ones if Treatment Was Provided, Withheld, or Withdrawn?
Moreover, an advance directive can provide the health care agent with the authority to utilize their judgment and consider the patient’s best interests. Considering the patients best interest means that the benefits of the patient’s treatment outweigh the burdens of that treatment to the patient after evaluating the following factors:
- The impact of treatment on the patient’s physical, emotional, and cognitive functions;
- The degree of physical pain or discomfort resulting from providing, withholding, or withdrawing treatment to the patient;
- The effects on patient’s life expectancy;
- The risks, side effects, benefits of the treatment, and prognosis for recovery; and
- The religious beliefs and moral values of the patient.
Lastly, if there is no health care agent appointed, the family is still permitted to make some medical care decisions for you. However, assigning a healthcare agent allows you to plan and determine what your stance is on these end-of-life medical treatment issues. You must inform your healthcare agent that you plan to select them and communicate with them what your medical concerns and needs are regarding your care.
When Do I Need to Contact a Lawyer?
If you become terminally ill and are unable to make healthcare decisions for yourself, it is important to have someone who understands your needs to fill them for you as you require.
If you have strong opinions about how your family should handle your end-of-life medical decisions, you should consider appointing a healthcare agent through an advance directive. You can seek out a local elder law attorney to assist you in the process.