UNDERSTANDING ADVANCED HEALTH CARE DIRECTIVES
(Originally Published October 2013)
WHAT IS AN ADVANCED HEALTH CARE DIRECTIVE? An Advanced Health Care Directive (AHCD), also called a “Living Will”, is a document in which you can specify now who you want to make health care decisions for you in the future in the event that you are unable to make these decisions yourself, generally when you’ve become incapacitated. As you may have guessed, this sounds a lot like the Durable Power of Attorney I discussed in last week’s Article and in fact until fairly recently this was called a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care. The name was changed because legally powers of attorney die when you do. Yet the AHCD also includes post-death instructions such as organ donation, autopsy, and funeral and memorial wishes.
SO WHAT ARE YOU DIRECTING? Your AHCD directs your designated Agent as well as your medical care providers as to your specific desires when facing a medical decision which you are unable to make for yourself. Although these decisions are very personal, over time many people have reached a common desire that when facing a life-ending medical condition, they do not want to be kept alive only because medical technology can keep the body going even when you are effectively gone. Many people remember the case of Karen Ann Quinlan who has kept alive in a hospital for nearly 10 years even though she was in what is called a “persistive vegitative state”. Most say they don’t want to live like that. Yet none of us wants the plug to be pulled before we’re ready to go so with your AHCD you designate your choices of treatment if you every fall into such a condition.
WHAT ARE THE DECISIONS TO BE MADE? The decisions generally fall into two categories: 1) Pre-death; and 2) Post-death.
1. Pre-Death Decisions – although the State of California has a basic form for AHCD’s, our forms seek to better clarify the choices to be made. Here’s the typical language:
“I recognize that modern medical technology has made possible the artificial prolongation of my life beyond natural limits. I do not wish to artificially prolong the process of my dying if continued health care will not improve my prognosis for recovery or otherwise enable me to live a productive and/or enjoyable life. Therefore, I do not want …read more