Advance Directives – Your Right To Decide
Advance Directives, also referred to as Living Wills, provide instructions to your doctors, hospital and family members on your wishes regarding life sustaining treatments. If you are in terminal condition or a state of permanent unconsciousness you have a right to decide what medical care and treatment you want or do not want to receive, but you must make these decisions at a time when you have the capacity to do so.
Communicating your wishes to family members is very important, but often it is not enough. Your children may not be available to tell the doctors and hospital your wishes. The hospital or care facility may require written documentation of your wishes if you are not able to effectively communicate your wishes. It is important to have a written document that can be included in your doctor’s and hospital file that specifically communicates your wishes to everyone involved with your treatment and care. A properly prepared Advance Directive should be given to your doctor, family members, clergy, and anyone who may be called to assist in your medical treatment decisions at the end of your life.
A carefully prepared Advance Directive should include your wishes with regard to various specific procedures. It should also address the designation of surrogate decision makers, the role of surrogates, and issues regarding mental incapacity. You should consult with an experienced elder law attorney to prepare a carefully drafted Advance Directive that comprehensively addresses end-of-life issues and that effectively outlines your wishes regarding end-of-life treatments.
The best time to prepare a Living Will is when it is not an emergency situation so you will have time to give these important decisions careful thought. After you have signed the document, let your family know that you have an Advance Directive. Remember, Advance Directives are not just for older persons; everyone over 18 years of age has the right and should execute an Advanced Directive outlining their end of life directions.