What is an Advance Health Care Directive?

The main purpose of an Advance Health Care Directive is to plan for future healthcare treatment, if you are incapacitated and unable to communicate your wishes.  This document contains of four distinctive parts. 

The first one names an agent or a proxy who is designated to authorize medical treatments, if you are unable to communicate your wishes.  Choosing an agent can be difficult decision, as your agent will be asked to make difficult decisions and will most likely be subjected to an enormous amount of pressure by other family members and friends.  Before selecting an agent, you should talk to him or her and verify the he or she is willing to serve in that role, and would have the ability to follow your wishes regarding end-of-life treatment.  Second, it is advisable to name a primary agent and two or three alternate agents.  While many clients may want to name co-agents, this can cause problems if the co-agents are not able to agree on a course of treatment.

The next section includes instructions which outline the types of medical treatment that you would like to receive, and more importantly, the type of medical treatment that you would not want.  Specifying medical treatments will ensure that your agent will know what types of treatments that you would or would not want, under certain circumstances.  It also ensures that your wishes will be followed if you were on life support.  In the document, you can specify how long you would want to remain on life support, whether you would wish to receive hydration and nutrition, and medication which may provide relief from pain but hasten your death.

In your Advance Health Care Directive, you can also specify if you wish to donate your organs.  If you do wish to donate organs, you can specify if those organs can only be used for transplant only or for other purposes, such as research and education.  You can also specify if you would not want your organs used for cosmetic surgery purposes. 

After the Advance Health Care Directive is executed, you should provide a copy to your primary care physician.  You may also want to provide a copy to your agents or let them know where this document is located.

The preparation of Advance Health Care Directive is an essential part of a well-planned estate plan because it provides guidance regarding future healthcare, if you are unable to communicate your preferences.

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