A health care directive, or health care plan or living will, lists your direct wishes in the case of your incapacitation. Anyone of sound mind over the age 18 can create a living will, and it is highly recommended by both medical professionals and lawyers alike.
What’s Included in a Health Care Directive
A health care directive covers all medical wishes you may have, and directs doctors on how to comply with your wishes if you are unable to communicate. These directives include:
- A “Do Not Resuscitate” (DNR) orderlets doctors know that you do not want your heart to be restarted in the event that it stops. Terminally ill patients who have DNR orders often keep them by their bedside so that doctors or emergency response teams know their wishes.
- Many patients do not wish to receive antibiotic or antiviral medication. This is an option with a living will.
- Palliative care is generally reserved for those who have no hope of recovery and who’s only option is to be kept comfortable. Should you enter palliative care, your health care plan can determine your lifestyle. Whether you are allowed to die at home, receive pain medication, or continue to receive tests and treatments, you can decide.
- Organ donor status is available on your driver’s license, but the specifics can be decided on a health care directive. Should you want specific organs to remain untouched or specific organs to definitely be donated (if they are able to be), then that can be directed.
- Life can be extended dramatically with tube-feeding and hydration, which can be decided prior to being intubated. Some may want to be kept alive as long as possible, while others do not want an intubated life.
- As with intubation, mechanical respiration machines can dramatically extend a life, but it also means absolute dependence on the respirator.
Health care directive decisions are not limited to this list, and should be thoroughly discussed with a medical professional.
Legal Implications of an Advance Directive
Advance health care directives provide some control over your death, which is why it is not legally binding unless it is signed under the supervision of two witnesses. The witnesses must not be related to you and can’t have anything to gain from your death.
People’s ideas of life and death change as they get older. It is recommended that health care directives be reviewed at least once every ten years, or whenever a major life event occurs (marriage, divorce, gaining or losing family members, diagnosis of a severe illness).
If you are interested in writing or reviewing a health care directive contact us. We have years of experience and can ensure your wishes are met.