What is an Advanced Directive?
The ability to choose is an incredibly powerful tool and one that we sometimes take for granted. While we are conscious and of sound mind, we are permitted to choose what medical treatments we want performed and which we do not. However, sometimes we are not conscious and are thus unable to make important medical decisions in times of need. An advanced directive is a document that attempts to supplement your conscious mind by allowing you to specify your wishes in regards to your medical treatments ahead of time so that they can be properly conveyed at the end of your life or in the event you are unable to do so.
What is included in an Advanced Directive?
There are different types of advanced directives and it is important that you are aware of each so that you make the directive that best fits your needs. The different types of advanced directives include:
- Living Will
- Power of Attorney
A living will is a legal document that specifies which medical treatments you both approve and deny in a situation where your life needs saving. The document also covers intimate details like whether or not you wish to have your organs donated should you pass away. The types of medical treatments that may be mentioned within a living will are vast and include:
- Mechanical ventilation
- Tube feeding
- Donation of body to science
- Pain management
A power of attorney that relates to your medical care is a document that names an individual who will be charged with the duty of making medical decisions on your behalf should you be in a situation where you are unable to do so.
The person charged with making medical decisions on your behalf is usually called the health care agent, health care proxy, health care surrogate, health care representative, health care attorney-in-fact, or patient advocate.
You may choose virtually anyone to make medical decisions on your behalf like your spouse, sibling, parent or friend.
Who Needs an Advanced Directive?
Advanced directives give you a voice when you are unable to speak. They can also take the pressure off of loved ones from trying to guess what treatments you would approve of and which you would refuse if you were conscious and able to speak for yourself.
How is an Advanced Directive Created?
To be valid in Pennsylvania, the advanced directive must be dated and signed by you in front of two witnesses who are both at least 18 years of age. The document is not permanent in that you may revoke the directive at any time.
A copy of the advance directive should be given to your designated health care agent, your doctors, family members and others whom you expect to help when you become unable to communicate decisions about your care.
How does an Advanced Directive work in Pennsylvania?
In Pennsylvania, the advanced directive gives the designated agent the power to make health care decisions for you whenever you are unable to do so yourself. The directive will go into effect once your treating physician determines that you are not able to make or communicate your health care decisions.
If you or a loved one would like to draft an Advanced Directive, contact attorney Joseph D. Lento today.