Most of us have strong feelings about the type of health care we want and who should make our medical decisions if we are incapacitated.
To highlight the importance of making decisions about your health care while you have the ability to do so, April 16, 2013, has been designated National Healthcare Decisions Day.
With an advance medical directive, you provide written direction about your healthcare choices and name a designee or agent to speak for you if you cannot. Advance medical directives can include language for a living will and health care power of attorney.
An advance medical directive permits you to describe the care you want and to specify the treatments you wish to receive – and those you don’t. These can include life-prolonging procedures like artificially administered nutrition or hydration, blood transfusions, the use of antibiotics or pain-relieving medication, and mental health treatment.
Advance directives can also state preferences regarding organ donation, medications, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, hospital or nursing home facility admission, and even who can visit you.
To prevent conflicts among family or friends about your treatment, you can authorize an agent to make your medical choices. The person you select will have priority over any others, who otherwise could, by law, make healthcare decisions for you.
Your medical directive can contain as much or as little direction as you desire. You can update or revoke it at any time. Photocopies of your medical directive should be given to all of your health care providers and anyone you want to be aware of your healthcare choices.
Virginians can download a advance medical directive form from the Virginia State Bar’s website here. There are new options for mental health treatment, including participation in health care studies that offer the possibility of direct therapeutic benefit. The supplement can be downloaded here.
Marylanders can obtain a form and additional information from here.
For the District of Columbia residents, a power of attorney for healthcare can be found here.
Virginians have a nice option to facilitate access to their advance medical directives at anytime from anywhere. They can file it with the Virginia Advance Medical Directive Registry here. With this free on-line Registry a healthcare provider will be able to see the written direction and the agent named, regardless of where medical care is received. This will prevent delay in providing care until the directive is located.
For more information about advance medical directives, talk to your lawyer and your health care providers.