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Do I Need a Medical Directive?

Nobody likes to think about their death, or consider how to handle decisions in old age. However, if you plan ahead, you can eliminate some of the trauma and stress by making important choices about your healthcare ahead of time. A medical directive gives you the chance to provide loved ones and medical professionals with information about how to carry out your wishes is you should become incapacitated.

What is a Medical Directive?

A medical directive goes by several names, including a health care power of attorney, advance directive, or health care proxy. The purpose of the document is to put your requests regarding your healthcare in a legal format. A healthcare directive gives you the ability to make choices regarding your health care when you are not able to express your wishes. While you can find templates for health care directives, it is always best to get one drafted and properly executed by an experienced attorney.

Benefits of a Medical Directive

There are several benefits to putting a medical directive in place. First and foremost, a directive gives instructions to doctors and to your family when you are unable to do so. The directive is a good way to help your loved ones during a difficult time. They may otherwise have difficulty making serious health choices if they do not know your wishes. The directive can address how you want to be cared for when you face specific medical situations. The document gives you peace of mind that your wishes will be followed if you become incapacitated.

What to Include in a Medical Directive

It is essential to include some important decisions as part of your medical directive. The more detailed the plan, the better, so that doctors and others fully understand your intent. Some things to consider including are:

When to resuscitate: There are times when you may not wish to have others perform CPR to keep you alive. This is also sometimes called a Do Not Resuscitate order, or DNR.

Ventilation: You may not want to be put on a mechanical breathing machine in some instances. For example, if your condition is unlikely to improve, you might prefer not to undergo this procedure.

Feeding tube: A feeding tube may be used when you are unable to eat. This intravenous method provides sustenance, but you may not want to have a feeding tube if your prognosis is not good.

Pain medication: You may want to provide specific instructions for how to handle pain and other discomfort. This is particularly helpful if you are suffering from an untreatable condition or are under hospice care.

Organ donation: Your medical directive may provide instructions for removing and donating your organs at the end of your life. Doctors generally sustain your life while they remove your organs immediately prior to your death.

There are other conditions that you will want to evaluate and include in your healthcare instructions. It is essential to choose a health care proxy or agent who has the legal authority to make decisions on your behalf. Make sure you provide your proxy with a legal copy of your healthcare directive and carry a medical card with instructions and information.

It is best to get help drafting and putting a healthcare directive in place from an experienced attorney. Contact Moen Sheehan Meyer, Ltd. to discuss your healthcare directive needs.

Published December 23, 2019
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