Caring for Families
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Defining Advance Directives
Advance directives can take many forms. Laws about advance directives are different in each state. Two types of advance directives are living wills and durable power of attorney for health care.
Should I have an advance directive?
By creating an advance directive, you are making your preferences about medical care known before you're faced with a serious injury or illness. This will spare your loved ones the stress of making decisions about your care while you are sick. Any person 18 years of age or older can prepare an advance directive. Even if you are in good health, you might want to consider writing an advance directive. An accident or serious illness can happen suddenly, and if you already have a signed advance directive, your wishes are more likely to be followed.
What is a living will?
It is a written, legal document that describes the kind of medical treatments or life-sustaining treatments you would want if you were seriously or terminally ill. A living will doesn't let you select someone to make decisions for you.
What is a durable power of attorney for health care?
A durable power of attorney (DPA) for health care states who you choose to make health care decisions for you. It comes into effect any time you are unconscious or unable to make medical decisions. A DPA is generally more useful than a living will. But a DPA may not be a good choice if you don't have another person you trust to make these decisions for you.
How can I write an advance directive?
You can write an advance directive in several ways including:
Advance directives and living wills do not have to be complicated legal documents. They can be short, simple statements about what you want done or not done if you can't speak for yourself. Remember, anything you write by yourself or with a computer software package should follow your state laws. You may also want to have what you have written reviewed by your doctor or a lawyer to make sure your directives are understood exactly as you intended. When you are satisfied with your directives, the orders should be notarized if possible, and copies should be given to your family and your doctor.
* Please note that we strongly recommend that you consult with your attorney for assistance in drawing up an advance directive. For more information about advance directives you may also contact the MHCS Social Service Department at 643-2971.
Source: American Academy of Family Physicians www.familydoctor.org.