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Advance Medical Directives

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Imagine the agony and distress family members or friends would feel if they were put in a position to make decisions on your behalf without knowing your wishes. The courts have rules that all mentally competent adults have the right to refuse medical care. Having a written Advance Medical Directive for your loved ones gives them a voice when they are unable to make decisions or communicate their wishes.

What is an Advance Medical Directive?

An Advance Medical Directive is the primary legal document for any health care decisions made when you are unable to speak or care for yourself. Unlike a Living Will, it goes beyond life-prolonging medical care. An Advance Medical Directive incorporates the Health Care Power of Attorney and your Living Will into one document and is the preferred legal tool for such matters.

While having an attorney is not required to complete an Advance Medical Directive, it may be helpful to call upon their services. Before you draw up an Advance Medical Directive for yourself or a loved one, think about the following questions:

First, it's a good idea to consider your personal values.

Values:

  • How important is independence and self-sufficiency?
  • What kind of living environment is important to you?
  • What role do your religious beliefs play in the decision?
  • What role should doctors and other health professionals play in decision making?
  • How should your family members or friends be involved in decision making?

Selecting An Agent:

Consider these questions to help you or your loved one choose the right person to serve as an agent to give power to over health issues.
  • Who do you trust to follow your wishes?
  • Who will be able to handle the stress of making decisions?

Setting Guidelines:

Trying to think of every contingency is virtually impossible so state the specific intentions you want followed in the most likely scenarios. Consider these questions.
  • What should be done if you are brain dead?
  • Should a respirator be used to prolong life?
  • Should feeding tubes be used?
You should review these documents every year to insure the information is still valid. It can be revoked or changed at any time. Be sure copies of the document are given to family members and/or friends, your physician and attorney. If you or your loved one are hospitalized or placed in a nursing home it should also be part of your medical record.