Make Your Healthcare Wishes Known
An Advance Healthcare Directive (Living Will) is a signed, written document that communicates to others what care you would like to receive, or not receive, under certain medical circumstances should you be mentally impaired or unable to communicate. It can only be followed if you are diagnosed in writing, by one or more attending doctor(s) to be either in a terminal condition or, in a permanent unconscious condition as certified by two physicians.
An Advance Healthcare Directive can provide physicians and hospital staff with the direction they need to help make important treatment decisions, such as cardiopulmonary resuscitation, cardioversion (electrical heart stimulation), intubation, feeding tubes, catheterization and mechanical ventilation. Without a Healthcare Directive, as a matter of law, physicians could be forced to ignore your wishes or those of your family. Spending our last days, weeks, months or even years attached to electronic devices can seem cold, lonely and unsettling to some. Others may prefer to utilize medical technology to extend their life.
Unless you put your wishes in writing in advance, the decision may be made for you. This lack of clear direction can cause anguish for family members, and even result in arguments.
Creating an Advance Healthcare Directive
More and more people are realizing the importance of having signed Advance Healthcare Directive forms prepared while you're in good health, in case they become unable to make decisions regarding your own healthcare.
Every state has laws governing Advance Care Directives.
After you have completed the form, you must sign the document and have your signature witnessed by two people who are neither related to you, nor who expect to inherit anything from you. After you have signed and dated, give a copy of any and all Advance Healthcare Directive documents to the following:
- Family physician
- Designated Durable Power of Attorney (A person you have legally designated to make decisions for you if you are unable to make them yourself.)
- Adult family members
- Family attorney (if applicable)
The originals should be stored in a safe, designated place where family members or your Durable Power of Attorney can obtain them in the event of a medical emergency or healthcare crisis.
To learn more about Advance Healthcare Directives and designating a Durable Power of Attorney, visit the National Institute on Aging.