By Elizabeth Sukys-Rice, MSW
If you find yourself in a situation where you cannot give informed consent, either in a short-term situation or permanently, you have the right to have a representative of your choosing, to speak on your behalf. Each state is different regarding their laws permitting advance directives, yet the basics are very similar. Advance directives are written methods that spell out your wishes when it comes to medical treatment. It is ideal to make out these directives when you are well, and in sound mind and body. The advance directive options are as follows:
- Living Will– is a document that has to be in writing and must be signed by you and have two witnesses. If you become incapable of making medical decisions, this document will outline your wishes and who will carry out your wishes.
- Health Care Surrogate- This document appoints someone who will speak on your behalf, regarding medical decisions, only when you are incapacitated and unable to make your own decisions.
- Health Care Proxy- This is the person that is appointed to you if you do not have a health care surrogate in place. It is usually a spouse, guardian or adult sibling, adult relative or close friend.
- Power of Attorney and Durable Power of Attorney- The Power of Attorney allows for financial transferring of property, borrowing money, handling bank accounts, and the Durable Power of Attorney allows for the prior actions along with making arrangements and the ability to give consent to all medical and surgical procedures, and the administration of drugs.
- Guardianship – A petition has been filed by the court appointing a guardian to take care of all financial and medical matters for an individual who has been determined by the courts to be unable to take care of themselves.
- Do Not Resuscitate Order – A document that Emergency Management service personnel will honor in the event you do not want to have CPR, or life saving measures conducted. A sample of a form from Maine is at the end of this chapter, yet you will have to obtain a form for your particular state and have it witnessed and signed by your physicians.
You can have one of these, or a combination of a few. It is also possible to get advance directives from your health care provider, local Area Agency on Aging and state health departments. We encourage you to meet with a legal representative to have the forms drawn up for the future.