Plan now...because you love them.
All too often, families are put in the unfortunate position of needing to make decisions about their loved ones' health care. If you have not discussed your wishes with your family, these decisions become all the more difficult.
As a competent adult, you have the right to control decisions about your future medical care, including the right to accept or refuse treatment. Making decisions about future medical care and sharing your wishes with your loved ones is truly a gift to your family and friends. Talking about your preferences for treatment will save your family the heartache of having to make decisions for you without knowing your wishes. Your family will feel reassured that they are respecting your wishes.
The time to plan is now!
Planning for the future can involve not only discussing your preferences with your family, but also putting those wishes in writing. Forms which can help you do that are Advance Directives and Living Wills.
What are Advance Directives and Living Wills?
An advance directive is a written instruction that you make while you are mentally competent that states how you want your health care decisions to be made if you become incapacitated or cannot express your wishes. Advance directives guide your physician and other health care professionals and relieve your family and friends from the burden of guessing what types of treatment you would want to receive. Alabama statutes recognize two different types of advance directives: the Advance Directive for Health Care and the Durable Power of Attorney.
This describes the kind of life-sustaining care you would want only if you had a terminal condition or were in a state of permanent unconsciousness, which includes persistent vegetative state or deep coma. The declaration directs your physician whether to withold or withdraw life-sustaining treatment or a feeding tube if you are not able to speak for yourself. A Living Will does not give authority to make all health care decisions on your behalf.
Durable Power of Attorney
With appropriate language, this appoints a proxy to make health care decisions for you, in collaboration with your personal physician, if you lose the ability to make health care decisions for yourself. Your proxy can tell the physician or hospital exactly what care you would want in all types of health decisions, not just those concerning life-sustaining treatment.
You can download and use the forms in the brochure, Advance Directive For Health Care forms.
What Do I Do With My Advance Directive if I have one?
Once you have completed your Advance Directive, place one copy with your important documents. Let your loved ones, your health care proxy and alternate proxy know that you have an Advance Directive and give them a copy. Be sure that one copy of your Advance Directive is included in your medical record at your physician's office. Bring a copy with you to be placed in your chart for all hospitalizations.
For more information, please visit the Alabama State Bar Lifeplan Web site.
This information is available to inform, not to advise. This is not intended to be a substitute for legal, medical or other professional advice. Please consult your attorney and family physician for further information.
"LIFEPLAN information reprinted by permission from LIFEPLAN 2001. Copyright 2001. Alabama State Bar. All rights reserved."