If you have been putting off conversations with your family and health care providers about your preferences for end-of-life medical care, you are far from alone. However, having those difficult conversations early may save your loved one untold heartache should the worst happen.
If you become physically or mentally incapacitated, you may no longer be able to make your own health care decisions. An advance medical directive lets you name a trusted proxy to make treatment choices on your behalf.
What does an advance medical directive include?
The first part of an advance directive is naming a health care proxy who will have medical power of attorney. However, your proxy will only be able to make decisions for you if multiple physicians agree you are unable to make your own medical choices.
Your health care agent must also follow instructions you include in your living will, the second part of an advance directive. For instance, in your living will, you may indicate what types of artificial life support you would or would not want if your condition is permanent or terminal.
This document also allows you to explain how strictly you want your health care proxy to follow the instructions in your living will. If you fully trust your agent to make choices that align with your values and preferences, you can indicate that your proxy can use his or her judgment. On the other hand, you may prefer your agent to follow your living will to the letter.
While it is a difficult topic to think about, an advance directive is an important part of your overall estate plan. In addition to giving yourself peace of mind, knowing your preferences in advance may save your loved ones from having to make a heartbreaking decision on their own.