When planning for the future, many people think about retirement planning and asset protection and distribution. However, fewer people consider what will happen if they are unable to make their own medical decisions.
An advance directive for health care outlines preferences for medical treatments relating to a terminal condition or a state of permanent unconsciousness.
Advance directive basics
According to Houston Healthcare, the main parts of a directive are for the person to state treatments he or she does and does not want and to name a health care agent. Some of the things to consider include:
- Use of anything necessary to extend life
- Allowance of natural death without any intervention
- Use of feeding tube
- Use of ventilator for breathing assistance
- Use of CPR
- Donation of organs
As long as the preferences are legal, any health care provider must follow the instructions. If unwilling to do so, the health care professional must transfer the patient’s care to another doctor. Because the decisions have major outcomes, the person filling out the advance directive should take the time to think about values and discuss different treatment options with doctors and family members.
Role of a health care agent
According to the State of Georgia Department of Human Services, Division of Aging Services, one of the roles of the health care agent is to ensure the health care team carries out the patient’s wishes. This is the case even if family members or others disagree with them. If a preference is not clear, or something comes up that the directive does not address, the agent must make health care decisions based on the best interests of the patient.
Although the health care agent is able to make many of the medical decisions, the agent may not give permission for sterilization or psychosurgery or commit the patient to mental health treatment or hospitalization.