There may come a time in your life when you require medical attention or treatment, and you are unable to communicate with physicians coherently. As scary as this thought may be, it is essential to be proactive and prepare for this event with a Living Will, Advance Directives and a Power of Attorney.
There are two documents that you will need to complete. The first document has many names. It is sometimes referred to as a “living will,” “advance directive,” “advance health care directive,” “personal directive,” or “patient advocate designation.” Regardless of the official name used, these documents all function to provide instruction to your physician if you are unable to yourself. The second document you will need is the “healthcare power of attorney.” This document functions to designate your medical power of attorney. The person you have chosen as your power of attorney will have the ability to make medical decisions for you if you are unable to, and your living will does not provide instruction for your specific situation.
1. Living Will
A living will is a document that outlines your medical wishes and preferences in the case of an accident or any event where you are unable to communicate with physicians or family lucidly. A living will helps prevent situations where your family would otherwise be forced to make medical decisions on your behalf and hope they did what you would have wanted.
Your living will does not only allow you to determine when to “pull the plug,” but will enable you to voice your range of medical preferences. Your preferences can range from specific treatments or procedures you would prefer in individual events, to your preferred pain medications.
It is important to keep in mind that your physician ultimately has the final word regarding your medical well-being. They, too, adhere to the preferences outlined in your living will. However, as long as there are no liability or ethical issues with your directives, most doctors will comply with your outlined wishes.
You should consult your doctor(s) about your living will to get their professional input and advice. Consulting with your doctor is an excellent time to inform them of the information you would like to put in your living will. While you discuss, you can directly ask your doctor if they will comply with the directives in your living will. A blessing from your doctors will give you peace of mind.
2. Healthcare Power of Attorney
You will need to understand the difference between a general power of attorney and healthcare power of attorney. The general power of attorney is someone whom you have appointed to more generally make decisions for you if you are unable to do so, including financial decisions. On the other hand, the healthcare power of attorney is much more specific. This person is one whom you have appointed to be in charge of your healthcare decisions in the case of you being unable to do so. So, if you have left anything out of your living will, your healthcare power of attorney will make your healthcare decisions for you.