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What is an advance medical directive?
An advance medical directive allows you to state how your health care should be handled if or when you are no longer capable of making decisions regarding medical treatment. Through one of three instruments — a living will, power of attorney for health care, or medical power of attorney and health care proxy — you make your own medical decisions and appoint someone to make them on your behalf if you are incapacitated.
Although you do not need to hire an attorney to fill out an advance medical directive, it is a good idea to discuss difficult medical decisions with someone like a trusted friend or your family physician before committing them to paper.
For example, it is important to decide how much intervention you wish to receive in the event your medical condition is deemed terminal. Do you wish to be kept alive by artificial means or want measures taken to extend your life?
According to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, advance medical directives are legally valid throughout the U.S. Once you learn about the advance directive laws of your state, you can complete and sign a directive that complies with those state laws in front of the required witness (as outlined by your state).
Keep in mind that emergency medical technicians (EMTs) are not allowed to follow your advance medical directive, but rather must do whatever is necessary to stabilize you and transport you to a hospital. Once you are at the hospital, it is probable that your advance directive wishes will be adhered to due because some states impose penalties on health providers who fail to comply with patient instructions.
Example of advance medical directive
Having an advance medical directive in place not only helps ensure you receive care consistent with your wishes, but it also guides your family and/or friends through what might be a difficult decision-making time.
The people who care about you need only follow the directives you have put in place and are not burdened with making painful medical decisions on your behalf.