Use and importance of Advance Health Care Directives

All California competent adults should consider signing a California Advance Health Care Directive. In this document, you empower someone to make medical decisions for you if you become unable to give informed consent to your medical decisions. You name your first choice and your alternate choices.

In the aftermath of the Terri Schiavo case, most people recognize how important this estate planning document is to protect yourself and your loved ones.

Included in this document can be your wishes on such matters as:

  1. Whether and when you want so-called “heroic measures” used to prolong your life if you were in a terminal condition;

 

  1. Whether you want your health care agent’s authority to start now or only when you are unable to make health care decisions for yourself;

 

  1. Whether you wish to be an organ donor and, if so, for what purposes you want the donations;
  2. Whether and when nutrition may be withheld if you were terminal or in a coma;
  3. Whether you prefer home health care versus nursing home care, as long as home health care were appropriate;
  4. Whether you prefer to be told the truth or whether you prefer not be told the details of your condition, especially if the news is bad;
  5. Who should have visitation rights with you;
  6. What treatments you want (and don’t want) if you develop dementia or Alzheimer’s disease and lose the capacity for meaningful interactions.
  7. Whether you prefer to be buried or cremated;
  8. Who should be in charge of arranging your funeral or memorial service or celebration of life or party (and which of these you prefer);
  9. Whether your religious beliefs are to be considered;

Copies of your California Advance Health Care Directive should be given to your nominated agents, doctors, hospitals, and all health care providers.

Seriously ill patients may also want to confer with their physician about a POLST form (Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment). A POLST form states what kind of medical treatment patients want towards the end of their lives. Printed on bright pink paper, and signed by both a doctor and the patient, POLST helps give seriously ill patients more control over their end-of-life care. For more information, see:  http://capolst.org/polst-for-healthcare-providers/forms/

Copyright James J. Phillips January 2017