What Is an Advance Directive and What Does it Accomplish?

Many people avoid thinking about what might happen if they become incapacitated due to an unforeseen medical crisis. Others believe that creating an advance directive is vital to their quality of life in this scenario. Here are some facts worth considering when deciding if an advance directive is right for you.

What Is an Advance Directive?

This legal document names a person to communicate and coordinate instructions regarding your healthcare when your incapacitation prevents you from doing so. Advance directives can also name alternate people when the primary person you name to represent you becomes unavailable. There are generally two types of advance directives.

Living Will

Although some of the legal aspects of living wills vary by state, they are all designed to provide instructions about the care you may or may not want to receive if you are permanently incapacitated or unconscious. This medical status requires separate confirmation by two physicians familiar with your circumstances. A living will communicates your wishes regarding the following:

  • Artificial breathing 
  • Tube-feeding
  • Cardiopulmonary resuscitation
  • Palliative treatments
  • Organ donation

It is always best to prepare a living will with careful consideration while you are healthy and alert. The law does not prohibit making changes as you adhere to the specific guidelines mandated by your state.

Durable Power of Attorney

This type of advance directive is similar to a living will in that the person you assign to handle your medical decisions must follow the guidelines you have provided. It differs by giving this person sole discretion to make medical decisions without your participation if you do not otherwise offer direction. It is necessary to choose a durable power of attorney who is very familiar with you and your preferences and can make decisions without interfering with their own personal preferences.Reasons to Have an Advance Directive

Some people mistakenly believe that advance directives only apply to the elderly, but this is not true. An advance directive can help solidify your wishes during debilitating medical circumstances of all kinds. During these times, they can also relieve your loved ones of the burden of making difficult decisions. By predetermining how you want to address a dire medical condition, you can avoid irrational or inappropriate decisions that can complicate a difficult situation or lead to unnecessary and prolonged disagreements.

If you are considering creating an advance directive, start by meeting with a lawyer, like a nursing home lawyer from Brown Kiely LLP, who can guide you through the process.