Understanding & Signing The Advance Health Directive
The Advance Health Care Directive Replaces The Living Will & Health Care Power of Attorney
The Advance Health Care Directive is the new terminology for a document that combines the functions of both the Living Will and Power of Attorney for Health Care. The Advance Health Care Directive is now the most up to date, comprehensive document for stating your health care wishes and empowering someone to interface with medical personnel and make decisions in case you are unable. It is impossible to overemphasize how important it is for every person to complete an Advance Directive lest you risk even your spouse or closest loved one be denied the ability to help or provide input or receive any information or communication in a medical situation or emergency.
A Directive Empowers Your Chosen Advocate
Many tend to view the need for an Advance Directive in terms of irreversible comas and end of life measures — overlooking what may be a more compelling reason for completing a directive: that is, empowering an advocate.
Without A Directive Strict Privacy Laws Can Prevent Your Closest Loved Ones From Helping or Getting Answers:
We live in an era of strict privacy laws and without proper written authorization, you risk denying even your spouse or closest loved one the ability to provide input or receive any information in a medical situation or emergency. Without it they may be unable to get answers, discuss your condition and treatment, or even help in the ways you may need or want. It doesn’t matter if it is your parent, partner, best friend, sibling or an adult child; you could still be refused. Again, don’t blame the doctors or the hospitals; this is all a result of HIPAA and other privacy laws that they must follow.
An Advance Directive Allows You to Overcome HIPAA & Privacy Barriers:
Properly completed however, an Advance Directive generally gives you the power to overcome these privacy barriers by simply signing the optional line that states that you wish your agent’s authority to start immediately.
Medical Professionals Understand The Importance of An Advocate
Many of you with experience in medical matters, already understand the importance of having partners, advocates, and helpers in your medical care. Story after story can be told about how often it has made the difference between life and death, suffering and recovery, and catching fatal mistakes, inconsistencies or problems that would have gone unnoticed.
Millions of Medical Mistakes & Iatrogenic Deaths Yearly
If you need more convincing, search the term iatrogenic deaths. There you can find conservative estimates of close to a million deaths a year caused by medical mistakes, adverse reactions, misdiagnosis, unnecessary interventions, and other hospital related complications or miscommunications.
Don’t Face A Complex & Sometimes Mistake Prone Medical System Alone
Take for example common, everyday hospitalizations and medical situations. Truth is, only a tiny percentage involves comas or legal incapacity. On the other hand, by near definition, most every patient is still in a weakened, physical and mental state that at the very least somewhat compromises their ability to think and process at their best — or as is often the case — they are in a severely compromised, medicated, pain-filled, depressed, sleep interrupted, or muddled mental state. Additionally, patients are often under pressure confronted with numerous, dizzying, rapid fire, often contradictory possibilities, test results, diagnosis, competing treatment alternatives, consent forms, and proposals for life altering surgeries. None of this is to mention the alarming number of mistakes, misdiagnoses, oversights, misses, and adverse reactions that occur on a regular basis.
Empowering a Helper & Advocate Just Makes Sense:
Under circumstances of being sick, physically impaired or facing surgeries, how many of you, going it alone, could properly process, evaluate, track and pay attention to everything that is being done to you or thrown at you in the hospital or medical situations — or conversely, how many of you would prefer having someone who can watch your back and assist under such circumstances? This paints an all too familiar picture that many of you have seen from one side or the other and builds the case for how important and often even essential it can be to have someone — besides yourself — who can watch over and fully interact with the medical personnel on your behalf. The way to do that is with an Advance Directive.
Don’t Worry — Your Agent Cannot Override You!
It should be emphasized that signing the line to currently empower your chosen agent does not give your agent the power to override your wishes. (You can revoke your agent’s authority at any time.) The point of currently empowering your agent is to free the hospitals, doctors and other medical personnel to interact with your appointed agent. Put another way, it is to empower your agent to be your concurrent helper, advocate, and partner in your medical care. Otherwise, if you do not sign this line, your agent will often not be allowed to help, communicate, or participate unless you become fully incapacitated.
If You Don’t Trust Your Agent Why Would You Ever Be OK With Them Deciding?
On the other hand, if you don’t want anyone to be able to help or participate unless you are incapacitated — or you are somehow worried about such things as your agent digging through your medical records or using their power for some nefarious purpose, then you should decline to sign this option. But then we have to ask: Why would you be OK with that person deciding your fate if you were incapacitated?
Empowering Your Agent Is Arguably The Most Important Function of An Advance Directive
We believe overcoming privacy barriers and giving someone the power to be your advocate and helper is one of the most powerful, primary, and perhaps most important capabilities and functions of an Advance Directive. In terms of day-to-day use, this need for a directive comes up far more often than that of irreversible comas and other extremes — and even then, we believe no amount of written instructions can ever substitute for the better judgment of someone you trust.
The More Complicated You Make This The Less Likely It Will Ever Get Done
In truth, there is no end to how elaborate you can make an Advance directive. You could literally spend many hours of attorney time discussing your options, with detailed, lengthy, and custom drafting. Yet in our experience the more expensive and involved you try to make a directive, the less likely it will get done, which means having no protection at all.
Stick To The Basics If You Want To Get Something In Place
That is why we choose to include a directive that sticks to the basics of appointing agents and allowing you the option to currently empower them. It is simple, straightforward, and can be completed in a matter of minutes – and allows you to get something in place very quickly and easily.
You Can Always Complete a More Expansive Directive Anytime:
Even if you are inclined towards completing a more elaborate health directive it is worth remembering that you can replace it at any time and that taking an initial basic approach can buy you the luxury of time in that you at least have something in place until you are able to go farther.
Don’t Be Like So Many Caught In An Emergency Without a Directive:
None of this is to say you have to follow our suggested strategy; you don’t! Just know that it comes from the larger experience of seeing so many never finish a directive as well as from seeing many others caught without one when they really needed it. That is why whether you use our approach or prefer a more detailed one we strongly urge you to get something in place right away!
Pointers regarding your directive:
- Never give out the signed original of your directive since a copy has the same full legal force as the original.
- We suggest making multiple copies and distributing them — especially to your agents.
- All copies should be kept in a location that is well known and easily accessible. The last thing you need is to have to frantically search around – most especially in an emergency.
- Some scan and email their directive including a copy to themselves so they can keep it stored and accessible in their web-based email. Some are reluctant to do this because of privacy concerns mostly related to the possibility of their email account being broken into. Only you can decide whether such concerns outweigh the convenience and accessibility of web based storage.
- When you go to a hospital we suggest taking along at least 3 copies because you will often find it requested more than once — and it is easier to hand over another copy then to try to track down the one you already gave someone else.
Directions For Completing The Advance Directive
Part 1 — Fill In Your Name & The Names of Your Chosen Agents
If you choose to use our included directive you begin with Part 1 where your should fill in the name of your chosen agent where indicated. You will also find spaces for optionally naming up to two other alternate agents if you would like.
Part 2 — Affirm Your Agent’s Current Authority Here
You should move on to Part 2 where you have the option to affirm that your agent’s authority is to start now. We’ve already gone over all the reasons why you should strongly consider this. By signing part 2 you presently empower your agent to be your concurrent advocate and helper. If you do not sign part 2 you will have to be fully incapacitated before they are allowed to participate.
Part 3 (Optional) — Instructions for End of Life Care
Part 3 allows you, if you’d like, to express some overall wishes regarding end of life care and life support. Though completing this section is entirely optional many seem to want to express a preference that no extra-ordinary measures be used that would needlessly prolong dying and suffering. If you would like to do so then you will want to consider reading and signing option A.
Remember however that you have already empowered your agent to make these kinds of calls and by leaving this section blank you are essentially saying you would rather leave it up to your agent’s best judgment – an approach that many prefer.
Part 4 — Sign & Date Your Advance Directive
Once you are through section 3 you should sign and date your directive where indicated in Part 4.
Notarize (or Witness) Your Directive
Now all you have to do is have the directive witnessed or notarized for it to become legally enforceable – and you should do so right away. For many reasons we believe notarizing is best especially since many directives are improperly witnessed. If you have it notarized be sure that the notary properly signs, stamps, and completes the notary area in Part 5. If you have it witnessed be sure to very carefully follow the instructions and procedures detailed in Part 6.