What Decisions Are Covered?
An advance directive allows you to make the following healthcare decisions:
- State the type of medical treatments you want or do not want
- State your preferences, goals, and values about healthcare treatments
- Choose the hospital or medical facility where you would like to receive medical care
- Choose a trusted person to act as your healthcare representative or agent
- Provide detailed instructions regarding healthcare treatments and medical procedures such as hydration, dialysis, artificial nutrition, and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)
- Determine whether you want to donate your tissues, organs, eyes, and brain
- Specify your burial and funeral arrangements
Your Healthcare Representative
The healthcare representative (also known as proxy or agent) is the person who acts on your behalf in healthcare matters should you become unable to communicate your healthcare wishes.
Who Can Be Appointed?
You can appoint a family member, close friend, or relative as your agent. You should ensure that the person is aware of your healthcare preferences. Additionally, you can name an alternate healthcare representative in your advance directive to step in should your first choice be unavailable, unable, or unwilling to act. You are not allowed to name your doctor or doctor’s employee as your healthcare representative.
What Are The Responsibilities?
Your appointed healthcare representative should:
- Discuss your true wishes long before you become incapacitated or seriously ill
- Make medical decisions on your behalf based on your true wishes and best interests
- Discuss your potential healthcare treatment options and preferences
- Consult with your physician
- Refuse or approve medical treatments, examinations, or tests that go against your wishes
- Request appointments and second opinions
- Review your medical chart
- Make life-support decisions on your behalf
- Authorize your transfer to another medical institution or healthcare facility, if necessary
Modifying or Revoking an Advance Directive
Advance directives are not set in stone. Over time, your preferences may change. In fact, it is recommended that you review your healthcare directives and estate plan from time to time to ensure that they conform to your current wishes. You can modify or revoke your advance directive at any time with the help of your attorney. You can also do the following:
- State your current wishes in a signed and dated document
- State your wishes orally in the presence of a medical provider and another adult witness
- Sign the modification or revocation
- Tear up or destroy your advance directive
If you decide to modify or revoke your advance directive, you need to inform your agent, physician, family members, or the nursing home where you receive care immediately. A new advance directive automatically revokes the old one in case there are discrepancies between the two documents.
Work with Knowledgeable Attorneys
Preparing for an uncertain future can never happen too early. Regardless of how young or old you may be, a severe illness or ill-fated event can leave you suddenly incapacitated. In the event that you’re unable to communicate your true wishes regarding your medical preferences, having an advanced directive in place will ensure that you get your desired medical treatments. Experienced estate planning attorneys can review your unique needs and help make key decisions.
At Bland & Birdwhistell, PLLC, we’re committed to offering knowledgeable and comprehensive legal guidance to clients in estate planning-related matters. As your legal counsel, we can review your circumstances, educate you about your possible options, and recommend a personalized plan for your end-of-life care. We can also guide you through the advance directive and estate planning process and help you make informed choices. We will represent your best interests and help you in a way that works best for you.