Have you ever considered who will make medical decisions for you if you are in a coma? Without your guidance, how will they know what you want?
A living will and healthcare power of attorney – also called Advanced Medical Directives – allow you to designate who you want to make your medical decisions for you when you cannot, and tell your doctors your wishes regarding life support and heroic measures.
What is a living will?
If you are unable to communicate due to a medical condition, a living will provides instructions to your doctor regarding your wishes about life support if you become terminally ill or are in a permanently unconscious state (e.g. brain dead).
The definition of a permanently unconscious state is when you have an irreversible condition in which you are permanently unaware of yourself and your surroundings. Two physicians must examine you and agree that you have a total loss of higher brain function and you are unable to feel pain or suffering.
The definition of a terminally ill condition is when you have an irreversible, incurable, and untreatable condition caused by disease, illness, or injury. Again, two physicians will have to examine you and and state that you cannot recover or that death is likely to occur within a relatively short time.
Your living will provides your doctor with important directions such as whether to put you on life support or to allow you to die naturally if you find yourself in one of these two unfortunate conditions. The living will also contains provisions stating whether you want to be an organ donor after your death.
What is a Healthcare Power of Attorney?
A healthcare power of attorney (“HCPOA”)appoints another person to make your medical decisions for you if you are unable to make those decisions yourself. Typically, people will designate their spouse, domestic partner, or one of their children as their medical decision-maker.
The person you designate to make your medical decisions is known as your “agent.” Choosing an agent is a significant decision and it is important to carefully consider who you trust with this responsibility. You can name alternate agents in your HCPOA in case your first-named agent is unable to make decisions for you when needed.
Once you have named an agent to make your decisions, the healthcare power of attorney gives your agent specific instructions about your wishes regarding life support and other medical treatment. You can choose specific, limited powers to give to your agent, or you can simply assign them the power to make all medical decisions for you, regardless of the specific context.
Under the HCPOA, your agent will only be making medical decisions for you if you are unable to make those decisions on your own.
Guidance and Peace of Mind
Ultimately, advanced directives are there to tell your loved ones and doctors what choices you would make about life support and heroic measures if you become braindead or are terminally ill. Without the advanced directives, your loved ones may be left guessing whether they are making the right decision when deciding to “pull the plug” on life support. That is a very stressful and difficult position to be in, particularly if your loved ones disagree about what they believe you would want in those circumstances.
These documents are simple to complete, and everyone should have these basic forms completed so that their loved ones do not have to suffer in making difficult medical decisions for you. Download the forms here or sign up with us and we’ll help you get these documents completed at no charge.If you are an Ohio resident, we will prepare a Health Care Power of Attorney and Living will for you at no charge.