Ask the Doctor: Advance Directives
Can anyone write up a living will? How to make it official... and what should you include? Find out in our Ask the Doctor segment.
There may come a time when you won't have the ability to make medical decisions yourself…and while it's not fun to talk about writing out your medical wishes in advance can not only help yourself and your doctors but take the stress off your loved ones, too.
Mary-Ann Brown is the director of palliative care at Renown Health. You can ask her questions by calling 858-2222 between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m.
1) WHY IS IT IMPORTANT FOR US TO HAVE AN ADVANCE DIRECTIVE?
The Advanced medical directives let others know what medical treatment you would want, or allow someone to make medical decisions for you, in the event you cannot express your wishes yourself.
2) WHAT'S GENERAL MEDICAL PROTOCOL IF PATIENTS DON'T HAVE AN ADVANCE DIRECTIVE?
If you don't have an advanced medical directive, medical care providers must prolong your life using artificial means, if necessary. With today's technology, physicians can sustain you for days, weeks or even years. Emergency medical technicians cannot honor living wills or medical powers of attorney. Once emergency personnel have been called, they must do what is necessary to stabilize a person for transfer to a hospital, both from accident sites and from a home or other facility. After a physician fully evaluates the person's condition and determines the underlying conditions, advance directives can be implemented.
3) CAN YOU GIVE US SOME EXAMPLES OF WHAT TYPES OF REQUESTS CAN BE INCLUDED?
A living will allows you to approve or decline certain types of medical care, even if you will die as a result of that choice. In most states, living wills take effect only under certain circumstances, such as terminal injury or illness. Generally, one can be used only to decline medical treatment that "serves only to postpone the moment of death." Although with do not resuscitate, you can also write out wishes for organ donation.
4) CAN ANYONE WRITE UP AN ADVANCE DIRECTIVE OR DOES IT HAVE TO BE MADE OFFICIAL WITH AN ATTORNEY?
While you do not need a lawyer to fill out an advance directive, your advance directive becomes legally valid as soon as you sign them in front of the required witnesses.