A time may come when you or a loved one is seriously injured or becomes gravely ill. Although we may prefer not to think about such a situation, it is best to be prepared to make decisions about one’s medical care regarding life support. Advance Directive is a term that covers several documents that lay out what kind of medical care you or your loved one desires in such a situation. These terms may include specifying what treatments you do, or do not, want in certain cases, or naming a person to make health decisions for you if you are unable to do so yourself. By learning about the various options available, individuals can help ease the pain of such situations and ensure one’s wishes are carried out.
Why have an Advance Directive?
- To protect your right to make choices about medical care that affect your life.
- To make your doctor and other caregivers aware of the kind of medical care you want, or do not want, in the event that you are too sick or injured to speak for yourself.
- To help relieve your family and loved ones of the stress of making difficult decisions on your behalf.
Preparing an Advance Directive
The best way to prepare an Advance Directive is in the comfort of your home, when you have time to think carefully and consider all options. It is important to discuss your wishes with your family, friends, and loved ones. Also, a lawyer may be helpful in executing an Advance Directive, or you may link to relevant forms from this page.
Types of Advance Directives
Living Will: A living will, also called a directive to physicians, takes effect while you are living, but unable to speak for yourself, and outlines your wishes regarding health care during a medical emergency. It is important that you give a copy of your living will to your physician to include in your medical file so that your instructions can be followed. It is your responsibility to give a copy to all facilities where you may receive health care. Also, let a family member or close friend know where to find a copy if it is needed. A living will goes into effect from the date your doctor receives a copy, determines you are unable to make your own healthcare decisions, and determines you are terminally ill or have an irreversible condition. The living will has limited use and only applies if you have a terminal medical condition, such that death is expected soon; it can be changed or revoked at any time.
Medical Power of Attorney for Health Care: This document allows you to appoint another person to make decisions regarding your medical care when you are unable to do so for yourself for mental or physical reasons. The person must be at least 18 years of age and should be someone you know and trust. You may include specific directions, just as you would in a living will. Your representative has the power to make a broad range of health care decisions for you. They may consent, refuse to consent, or withdraw consent to medical treatment, which can include life support. However, your representative may not consent to voluntary inpatient mental health services, convulsive treatment, psychosurgery, or abortion. Even after you have signed the power of attorney, you still have the right to make health care decisions for yourself as long as you are able to do so. Treatment cannot be given or stopped if you indicate an objection; the power of attorney can be changed or revoked at any time.
Out-of-Hospital Do-Not-Resuscitate Order: There may come a time when, due to a terminal condition or the possible consequences, you decide you want to die a natural death without being revived. An Out-of-Hospital Do-Not-Resuscitate (DNR) order is for the purpose of instructing emergency medical personnel and other health care professionals to forgo resuscitation attempts and to permit the patient to have a natural death. This order does not affect the provision of other emergency care, including comfort care. It simply states your wish to not have cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR), which generally consists of chest compressions, artificial ventilation techniques, medication, and electrical shocks to the heart. A DNR order is valid in the emergency department, ambulance, long-term care, and in the home. To complete a DNR while in the hospital, please inform your healthcare personnel upon admission.
For assistance or more information, please contact:
Coryell Health Social Services
Phone: (254) 248-6330