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Advance Medical Directive

What is a health care directive and why do I need one?

Adults can decide for themselves whether they want medical treatment and how they prefer to be treated. This right covers decisions regarding the use of medical treatment extending your life, such as a breathing machine or feeding tube. If you become incapacitated, a health care directive or living will allow you to choose an agent to make health care decisions on your behalf. Your agent may also have access to your medical records and speak with the doctor about your treatment and care. The medical directive will also dictate your preferences about certain treatments that might be used to sustain your life.

Who can be my health care agent?

A trusted individual over 18 years old.

What types of medical decisions can my agent make for me?

It is important to choose a person you trust and knows what you would possibly want. A health care agent can make any medical decision that you have not specifically decided within your health care directive.

What types of decisions may I make on my health care directive?

Your health care directive can be as specific as you wish. Generally, a health care directive specifically instructs your doctors and medical staff about end-life decisions such as continuing nutrition and life-support if you were in a vegetative state.

Why is it important for me to have a medical directive?

A medical directive allows you to make difficult medical decisions for yourself, instead of your agent or loved ones, alleviating them of the burden of any guilt. It also assigns a trusted individual to have access to your medical records, to switch hospitals if necessary.

Can my health care agent make financial decisions on my behalf?

No, the health care agent can only make medical decisions for you if you become incapacitated. A financial power of attorney will be required in order for that person to make any type of financial decisions on your behalf.

Where should I keep my medical directive?

Once you have signed your medical directive, you should give copies to your health care agent, and back up agents, family doctor, family and friends who should know your wishes. Consider carrying an identification card in your wallet or purse with instructions to call your health care agent and his/her contact information.

Can my health care agent or my family decide treatment issues differently from what I wrote in my medical directive?

Health care decisions are difficult to make, the more specific your instructions are, and less flexibility you provide as to those decision, the less likely your agent and family members will have the burden and guilt of making those difficult decisions for you.

Can my doctor override my living will?

Generally, no. However, a doctor is not required to provide a “medically ineffective” treatment even if a living will ask for it.

If I have an advance directive, do I also need an emergency Medical Services Palliative Care/ Do Not Resuscitate Order?

Yes, the medical directive does not provide for this decision within its provisions. If you do NOT want emergency personal to resuscitate you in the event of cardiac or respiratory arrest, you must have DNR or EMS signed by your doctor.

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