Living Wills, Health Care Proxies, and Advance Health Care Directives
The Most Important Document You Can Have
Advance health care directives allow us to deal with situations in which difficult decisions must be made regarding medical situations, often at the end of our lives. Without such directives, your family members might be forced to seek a court order to deal with your medical situation.
ASAPLegalForms' documents are fully customized, and are designed to meet the specific laws of your state. All fifty states permit you to express your wishes as to medical treatment in terminal illness or injury situations, and to appoint someone to speak for you in the event you cannot speak for yourself. Depending on the state, these documents are known as "living wills," "health care proxies," or "advance health care directives."
A living will is your written expression of how you want to be treated in certain medical conditions. Depending on state law, this document may permit you to express whether or not you wish to be given life-sustaining treatments in the event you are terminally ill or injured, to decide in advance whether you wish to be provided food and water via intravenous devices ("tube feeding"), and to give other medical directions that impact the end of life. "Life-sustaining treatment" means the use of available medical machinery and techniques, such as heart-lung machines, ventilators, and other medical equipment and techniques that will sustain and possibly extend your life, but which will not by themselves cure your condition. In addition to terminal illness or injury situations, most states permit you to express your preferences as to treatment using life-sustaining equipment and/or tube feeding for medical conditions that leave you permanently unconscious and without detectable brain activity. A living will applies in situations where the decision to use such treatments may prolong your life for a limited period of time and not obtaining such treatment would result in your death. Living wills do not determine your medical treatment in situations that do not affect your continued life.
Health Care Proxy
A "health care proxy," sometimes called a "health care surrogate" or "durable medical power of attorney," is the appointment of a person to make medical decisions in the event you are unable to express your preferences. Typically, this situation occurs either because you are unconscious or because your mental state is such that you do not have the legal capacity to make your own decisions. Normally, a single individual is appointed as your health care proxy, though quite commonly one or more alternate persons are designated in the event your first choice proxy is unavailable. As with the living will, medical professionals will make the initial determination as to whether or not you have the capacity to make your own medical treatment decisions. The health care proxy is a durable power of attorney specifically designed to cover medical treatment.
Why Have Health Directives?
Regardless of the name your state gives to these documents, their purpose is to allow you to express your preferences concerning medical treatment at the end of your life. By expressing such preferences in a written legal document, you are ensuring that your preferences are made known. These documents provide your expressed wishes, rather than making the family guess your desires. Making your wishes known in advance prevents family members from making such choices at what is likely one of the most stressful times in their lives. Further, providing such information and designating a health care proxy means that the physician knows whose direction is to be followed in the event your family disagrees as to what medical treatment you would want.