Today is National Health Care Decisions Day. All adults can benefit from thinking about what their healthcare choices would be if they are unable to speak for themselves. These decisions can be written down in an advance directive so that others know what they are.
In California we refer to this as an Advance Health Care Directive. With this document you can choose an agent and alternative agent(s) to make health care decisions for you in the event that you are not able to do so or if you want your agent to be involved with your health care immediately. You are able to state the types of treatments that you want and do not want. These can include: whether you agree or disagree to diagnostic tests, surgical procedures, and medication plans. Whether or not you would permit the providing, withholding, or withdrawal of artificial feeding and fluids and all other forms of health care, including cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). You can also plan for your funeral, the disposition of your remains, and state your wishes in regards to pain management, religious practices, and anatomical gifts/organ donation and autopsy.
In my experience of advising clients when making difficult decisions for their incapacitated loved ones, the burden and stress is lessened when their family member or friend has clearly stated their wishes. Both parties benefit in that the patient gets the treatment that they wanted without the treatment that they do not want and the agent can feel confident in the decisions that they are making.
There are a number of resources available to you to help you make these decisions. Depending on your specific concerns you may want to talk with your doctor, with an attorney, or use a fill in the blank form. To learn more about advance directives in general you can visit the National Health Care Decision website.
* The information contained in this Blog is intended for general information and educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or an opinion of counsel.