No one likes to think about the possibility of becoming seriously ill or incapacitated. However, every individual should have an Advanced Care Directive (also known as an Advanced Medical Directive) to protect themselves if they were no longer able to make decisions for their health care, end of life, living arrangements, and various other personal matters.
The basic definition of an Advanced Care Directive is a legal document or group of legal documents in which a person puts in writing what their wishes are for their health if they no longer have the capacity to make these decisions for themselves.
Advanced Dare Directives are often comprised of a Living Will and a Healthcare Proxy. Everyone who is above the age of 18 should have one.
Key Components of Advanced Care Directives
There are several key items you should include in your Advanced Care Directive.
1. Choice of Life Support Treatments
The most important instructions to include are which life support treatments you want, or do not want. You can provide directions on if you want all life support treatments, no life support treatments, or you may choose individual support treatments such as blood transfusions or dialysis.
2. Choice of Healthcare Proxy
Another facet every Advanced Healthcare Directive should contain who you choose to be your Healthcare Proxy. This person will be responsible for making medical decisions on your behalf in the event you are unable to. This person should be someone who you are close to and can trust.
3. Choice of Resuscitate Order
You should also decide if you want a do not resuscitate order, which states that if your heart stops or you are no longer breathing, you want every effort or no effort made to revive you. Depending on your personal preferences, you should also include whether you would like to become a registered organ donor.
Important Advanced Healthcare Directive Considerations
1. Advanced Healthcare Directives are not congruent
throughout the United States and laws may vary from state-to-state. This can often be confusing because one state’s directive may not work in another state. To ensure your wishes are carried out, you should complete Advanced Care Directives for all states where you spend a significant amount of time.
2. Emergency medical technicians legal obligations
Emergency medical technicians are legally obligated to do whatever is necessary to stabilize a person and transfer them to a hospital. Therefore, they simply cannot honor your Advanced Care Directive. Your directive will be implemented when a medical professional evaluates your condition and the underlying conditions.
3. Advanced Care Directives have no expiration
Advanced Care Directives have no expiration timeline – the original will remain in effect unless you make changes to it. If you create a new directive in the same state, the previous one will be invalidated. However, it is important to notify the agent named in both the old and new document.
4. Keep Up-to-Date
If your wishes do change, it is important to keep your Advanced Care Directive up to date. If you choose to make changes, it is recommended that you create an entirely new document.
5. Legally Binding
An Advanced Care Directive is a legally binding document as soon as it is signed in front of the required witnesses, therefore it is essential you seek the advice of a legal professional when creating one.