As difficult as it is to consider, we all grow old. Part of aging is a deterioration of our bodies and minds. Even without injury or illness, old age can significantly impact an individual's ability to make decisions. Our ability to communicate our wishes may be impacted by aging, medical condition or injury. It is for this reason that drafting an advance directive is so important to aging individuals.
An advanced directive is a document that allows an individual to express in writing their wishes for medical care in the event they are unable to communicate. Not only does an advanced directive allow an individual to express their wishes and preferences about medical treatments, but it also allows them to designate a person to make those decisions if they are unable.
Advance directives come in two different forms, a health care power of attorney and a living will. Every state has laws that regulate the use of these directives. While some states allow a designated loved one or immediate family member to make medical decisions on behalf of an incapacitated individual, there are some states that do not. In those states, clear evidence is required that shows a person's own preferences are to be carried out by a designated individual.
Drafting an advance directive does not give away an individual's right to make their own health care decisions. These directives are typically only effective after certain legal and medical requirements are met. The individual in question must be unable to make their own medical decisions. This inability must be certified by a medical professional. Aside from incapacity, there are living will laws in state requirements that must also be met before an advance directive becomes effective.
An advance directive is a useful tool for individuals that wish to designate a person as their healthcare decision-maker in the event they are incapacitated. Both a healthcare power of attorney and a living will are complex legal documents that may require the help of an attorney to draft.