Do you know the facts about Healthcare Advance Directives?

by Stephanie Montgomery — 

Fewer than 25 percent of Americans have expressed in writing their thoughts about how they wish to be cared for at the end of life. By expressing your wishes clearly and in writing, you help your family and friends carry out these wishes regarding your healthcare, if or when you become unable to make decisions for yourself.

Fewer than 25 percent of Americans have expressed in writing their thoughts about how they wish to be cared for at the end of life.

Fewer than 25 percent of Americans have expressed in writing their thoughts about how they wish to be cared for at the end of life. By expressing your wishes clearly and in writing, you help your family and friends carry out these wishes regarding your healthcare, if or when you become unable to make decisions for yourself.

Most people avoid this subject but with some basic information regarding Healthcare Advance Directives, you can give your loved ones the power to carry out your end-of-life wishes.

 

Important definitions

Advance Directives: A written document expressing a person’s wishes, should that person become incapacitated and unable to communicate their healthcare decisions. The Patient Self-Determination Act requires all healthcare facilities to provide patients with information regarding their rights to make decisions about their medical care and their right to refuse treatment.

Healthcare Power of Attorney or Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare: A written document allowing the individual to appoint an agent to make healthcare decisions for them should they become unable. The individual’s signature must be witnessed or notarized.

Living Will: A written document instructing the patient’s physician to provide, withhold or withdraw life-sustaining procedures. These instructions are used in the event the patient loses decision-making capacity and is diagnosed with a terminal condition. (A terminal condition is an incurable or irreversible condition from which, in the opinion of the attending physician, death will occur without the use of life-sustaining procedures.) A Living Will must be written when the patient is mentally competent.

Pre-Hospital Medical Care Directive: A specific written form that directs medical personnel about which life-saving actions are to be taken or not taken to save the patient’s life. Also known in the medical profession as “the orange form.”

It is important to understand that even though you have completed a Healthcare Advance Directive, you still remain in control of your healthcare decisions as long as you are mentally competent and able to communicate your wishes. The Advance Directive has no legal effect unless and until you lack the capacity to make your own healthcare decisions.

You can find free Advance Directive forms as well as instructions and tips for their completion on the Internet at www.hcdecisions.org. Once you have your forms completed, keep the original documents in a safe place at home, give copies to your physician, family members and your agent if you have appointed one. In Arizona, you can deposit your Advance Directives into the Advance Directive Registry. For further information about this registry and to fill out an application to deposit your documents, visit azsos.gov.

 

Stephanie Montgomery is a healthcare professional. She and her husband, Dan Montgomery, own American Family Caskets, a Phoenix store selling quality funeral merchandise directly to the public. 602-943-7124 or www.americanfamilycaskets.com. 

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 24, Number 3, June/July 2005.

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