What Is an Advance Care Directive?
People start out with good intentions at the start of the year, and then fail to follow through. This makes difficult situations even worse for their family. The process begins with discussions about your care wishes, explains the Chicago Tribune’s Daily Southdown in the article “Talk to your family now about advance care directives.”
That conversation should include who you would trust as a health care agent. This person would be named in the medical power of attorney or what is called a Health Care Proxy in Massachusetts, an advance directive legal document that gives that person the power to make medical and care decisions on your behalf if you are not able to.
That person needs to know, from you, what’s important to you when it comes to quality of life, or length of life.
This is a very important document, as the person has the power to make life and death decisions on your behalf.
It also covers whether you want to be an organ donor. If an unexpected accident occurred and your organs were still healthy and working, would you want to give them to someone who needs a kidney or a heart? If that would be your goal, you need to make your wishes known to your health care proxy and health care providers, as well as to your family.
A living will is also important to have in place. This is used in cases of incurable or irreversible injury, disease, or illness. It expresses your wishes for end-of life care. It gives you the ability to refuse any death-delaying treatment and allow you to die naturally.
These are family matters that should be discussed, but often are not. The topics are hard, as they are centered on our mortality, the mortality of those we love and the reality of death. However, when family members know what their loved one’s wishes are, it provides the family with a tremendous relief.
Without a medical power of attorney or living will, the family may end up fighting over what each member thinks their loved ones wanted. Without clear direction from the family and the correct legal documents, the health care provider must take steps to prolong life, even if that is not what the person wanted.
When naming a health care agent, think about someone who you trust completely. That person will have access to your medical records and be able to approve who else sees them. They may also authorize tests and treatment, decide where you will receive care, which physicians will provide care and whether to accept, withdraw or decline treatment.
Reference: Chicago Tribune’s Daily Southdown (Dec. 30, 2019) “Talk to your family now about advance care directives”