What is an Advanced Directive?

Have you created an advanced directive with the help of an estate planner? If you haven’t, then chances are that you should start working on this end-of-life plan right away. An advanced directive is a document which expresses your wishes for healthcare should you become too incapacitated to make your own decisions. For example, if you were involved in a debilitating car accident that caused you to go on life support, would you want to remain in your vegetative state? Or would you rather be allowed to pass away at that point in your life?

The choice to turn of life support is a serious one, and without aid from you then your spouse, family, or friends may be at a loss as to what to do. With an advanced directive, you can prove that you have already made the choice for your post-accident future. By creating this option you can tell your friends and family whether or not you would accept or refuse medical care in a variety of situations. You can determine whether or not you would welcome the use of breathing machines and dialysis if they are needed. You can determine whether or not you would want to be resuscitated if breathing or your heart stops. You can consent or deny tube feeding should you be unable to eat in a normal manner. Also in your advanced directive, you can consent to organ or tissue donation should you go into a comatose state. This could help save someone else’s life later on.

A durable power of attorney for health care is a document that will name your health care proxy. This is the person that you will entrust to make any medical decisions for you if you are unable to make your own choices. You will want to make sure that you talk things over with your proxy in the event that you would need a decision made in your stead. Oftentimes life can be extended by the use of machines. Your proxy may have to make choices about whether or not to put you on a ventilator, a gastrostomy tube, an intravenous tube, and an oxygen supply machine. These machines will sustain your life, but they will not cure your illness. You can talk to your health care providers about life-support now if you want to be informed before making decisions about your future.

In addition to creating an advanced directive to address questions about life support, you can fill out a do not resuscitate order. This will make sure that medical teams do not try to bring you back from a state where your heart has stopped beating or you have stopped breathing. You can also entrust all of your medical decisions to a proxy or a health care agent. You can cancel or change your advanced directive at any time if your opinions chance. If you are acting as proxy for someone else, make sure that you talk to their doctor and review the goals of their medical care before making a drastic decision. When it comes to life support, Medline Plus suggests that you weight the benefits and burdens of allowing your loved one to undergo treatments and think of that man or woman’s wishes and values.

If you create an advanced directive, you should also take this opportunity to make sure that your will is up to date. You want to make things as easy as possible for your family in the event that your life is discontinued. Talk to a probate attorney today for more information about drafting an advanced directive, mandating a proxy, or updating your will so that it reflects your current wishes for the future of your estate.