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Advanced Directives, Power of Attorney and Living Wills

Parish Nurse: Diana Weyhenmeyer

I have been asked to discuss advanced directives, power of attorney, and living wills. I thought I would do this in two parts. First part is from the June Grace Notes with defining terms and the July-August Notes will be on completing the forms and how to do it.

What is a Health Care Directive? A directive allows you to plan your medical treatment in advance should there ever come a time when you are unable to express your personal health care wishes. A Health Care Directive is also known as:

  • Advance Directive

  • Living Will Form

  • Advance Health Care Directive

  • Advance Medical Directive

  • Living Will

  • Advance Decision Form

What is a Medical Power of Attorney? A Medical Power of Attorney is a document used to appoint someone to make medical decisions on your behalf. A Medical Power of Attorney is also known as:

  • Health Care Power of Attorney

  • Health Care Proxy

  • Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care

  • Power of Attorney Medical

What is a Living Will? A Living Will is a document that you use to indicate your medical wishes in the event you are incapacitated or cannot consent to your health care treatment. Is a Living Will the same as a Health Care Directive? Some states use the terms Living Will and Health Care Directive interchangeably, and some states use one term but not the other. Generally, a Living Will and a Health Care Directive both dictate your health care preferences in the event of a medical emergency. A Health Care Directive may also be used to refer to a document that contains a Living Will and a Medical Power of Attorney. In addition, different states have varying requirements in what constitutes a Living Will or Health Care Directive. It's important to check your state's laws regarding these documents to determine exactly which documents you need to express your wishes.

What is the difference between a Living Will and a Last Will and Testament? If you are unable to express your health care wishes in the future, hospitals and family can reference your Living Will as a statement of your medical wishes. Alternatively, a Last Will and Testament is a document used to indicate how you would like your assets divided or children cared for after your death. You cannot specify medical treatment preferences with a Last Will.

Why should I create a Health Care Directive? Without a Health Care Directive, the burden of making your medical decisions falls on your family members. Creating a personal directive not only gives you control of your medical wishes but it saves your family from making tough treatment choices on your behalf. Additionally, implementing a Medical Power of Attorney allows you to discuss your treatment wishes with someone you trust prior to any unforeseen medical circumstance so they can make health care decisions in your best interest.

What medical decisions can I make with a Living Will? Every state has its own limits as to what you are legally permitted to include in your directive. While you may specify instructions for a variety of medical situations and describe your feelings towards quality of life, keep in mind that health care providers can only carry out certain procedures according to your state laws. With LawDepot's Living Will template, you can make decisions regarding the following medical situations:

  • Terminal Illness or Injury

If you are terminally ill or injured, you can document which, if any, treatment options you would like to pursue. Terminally ill or injured means that medical professionals have concluded that you have a condition that cannot be cured and that is expected to result in limited life expectancy.

  • Life Support

You can specify whether you would like to receive any form of life support in the event of a medical emergency. Life support means any life-sustaining procedures done to a patient to restore function to an organ through medical intervention. Common forms of life support include CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation), defibrillators, assisted breathing, dialysis, and artificially administered food and water. DNR stands for "Do Not Resuscitate", which means you do not wish to receive life support or resuscitation if an organ fails.

  • Permanent Unconsciousness

You can address which, if any, treatments you would like to receive in the event of permanent unconsciousness, such as a coma or persistent vegetative state. Permanent unconsciousness is when there is a reasonable degree of medical certainty that the patient can no longer think, feel, knowingly move, or be aware that they are alive, and there is no hope for improvement.

When does my Health Care Directive come into effect? The terms of your directive are binding once you sign the document. It comes into use when you have been found to be incapable of making your own medical decisions. Typically, this may be when you are incapacitated, in a coma, or in a vegetative state.

Can I make changes to my Health Care Directive? You can make changes to your personal directive if you destroy your current one, notify your health care representative or hospital of your changes, and create and distribute a new directive. It's important to let everyone in your family know where you keep your advance directive so they can easily find it during an emergency.

What Do I Do With This Form Once I Complete It? Follow these instructions after you have completed the form: Sign the form in front of a witness. See the form for a list of who can and cannot witness it. Ask the witness to sign it, too. (iii) Give a copy to your agent and to each of your successor agents. (iv) Give another copy to your physician. (v) Take a copy with you when you go to the hospital. (vii) Show it to your family and friends and others who care for you Go through the form and check the boxes with what you want done in medical treatment. Write in names of successor agents. Don't forget to have someone witness your signature. If things change, you can always redo the form and update to your wishes. These forms can be done online in a step by step process and answer their questions. [Forms are available in the links below.]

Advanced Directives, Power of Attorney and Living Will Documents

This information was taken from this web site: You can go on the web site here and create your own living will and power of attorney for health care in a few steps. In Christ's love, Diana


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