An Advanced Health Care Directive is a hybrid mix of a traditional durable healthcare power of attorney and a living will. It combines the important and beneficial elements of both.
An Advanced Health Care Directive is recognized as valid in all states. It is a document in which you, while you are still in a sound mental state, detail or list the instructions about how you want your own health care provider to treat you - i.e., what you want done or not done - when or if you can't or aren't in a position to make your own decisions known (for instance, if you are in a prolonged coma). The document permits you to inform your doctors, friends and family members as to what kind of care you would like to have if you become unable to make medical decisions for yourself. Further, the Advanced Health Care Directive allows you to be more specific than the traditional living will, which normally announces only your desire not to receive life-sustaining treatment if you are terminally ill or in a permanently unconscious state.
The Advanced Health Care Directive also permits you to appoint an agent to make somewhat "less serious" healthcare decisions for you, generally in circumstances in which you are otherwise unable to make or communicate such decisions. For example, if medical treatment is required due to an injury that has left you in an unconscious state (but not a permanent comatose state), the healthcare power of attorney allows the agent that you appoint to make that decision for you.
The Living Will portion of the directive allows you to request that artificial life-sustaining procedures be withheld or withdrawn when it becomes apparent that death is imminent or that you will not recover to a conscious state and you are unable to make responsible decisions regarding medical care.
By preparing an Advanced Health Care Directive and providing copies to medical providers, family members and friends, you can more adequately assure that your wishes on how you want to be treated, and whether or not steps should be taken to prolong your life, will be addressed. This document can avoid family disputes, hospital red-tape and bureaucracy and the unfortunate need for courts to participate in the deeply personal decisions concerning health care and treatment.
Also, it should be noted that if you change your mind after executing the Directive, you may cancel or revoke it.
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