Everyone deserves the right to make their own decisions about their health. But sometimes we may found ourselves in certain circumstances in which we are unable to do so, such as during a coma, terminal illness, or serious injury. An important way that we can communicate our decisions during these times, however, is by having an “advance directive” in place.
Advance directives are written, legal documents that outline your decisions regarding medical care when you are unable to make them. They assist doctors and caregivers in making medical decisions on your behalf, and they can be written at any age.
There are several types of advance directives:
Health care power of attorney (also called “durable power of attorney for health care” or “health care proxy”). This is a type of advance directive in which you appoint a person you trust to make medical decisions on your behalf when you are unable to do so. This may be a family member, partner, or friend.
Living will. This is a written, legal document that outlines your wishes for certain medical or end-of-life care treatments. These may range from mechanical ventilation to tube feeding, to even organ and tissue donations.
Do-Not-Resuscitate Orders (DNR). This order informs health care providers not to perform CPR if your breathing or heart were to stop.
While advance directives are not required, it may be a good idea to have one in place so that you can have peace of mind knowing that you’re in control of your health care in the event that you are unable to make decisions for yourself.
It should be noted that state requirements regarding advance directives, such as living wills, may vary, so be sure to check your local state laws if you decide to create one for yourself. Also, be sure to keep a copy of your living will for yourself, as well as provide copies to family members, health care providers, and your health care power of attorney. Advance directives can be changed at any time, but just be sure to redistribute copies as necessary.
For more information about advance directives, check out the following resource links:
Advance Care Planning | UNC Health Care: UNC Medical Center
Living Wills and Health Care Powers of Attorney | North Carolina Bar Association
Living Wills and Advance Directives for Medical Decisions | Mayo Clinic
Advance care directives. (2017, September 5). Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000472.htm
Advance directives. (2017, July 24). Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/advancedirectives.html#summary
Creating advance directives. (2014, November 11). Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/consumer-health/in-depth/living-wills/art-20046303?pg=2
Living wills and advance directives for medical decisions. (2014, November 11). Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/consumer-health/in-depth/living-wills/art-20046303