A health care directive is a document that allows you to leave instructions to guide anyone who may be making health care decisions for you. It also gives you the ability to name another person, your health care agent, to make health care decisions for you in the event that you are unable to decide or cannot speak for yourself.

A health care directive is an important and useful tool because its entire purpose is to make sure your wishes are still heard and carried out as closely as possible when you are unable to communicate and give direction yourself. It creates a platform to make it clear if an agent will have authority to speak for you, what powers your agent has, what your health care goals are, and more.

The goal of this publication is not to teach you everything you need to know about health care directives, but to give you an introduction to what a health care directive is, and what it can do for you. The information in this publication is offered only for informational purposes and as a public service to the community. This information is not meant to provide legal opinions, offer advice, or be used as a substitute for speaking with a licensed attorney.

Choosing A Health Care Agent

When creating a health care directive you have the choice of naming a health care agent or not naming one. If you decide to not name a health care agent, your health care directive will give your instructions to those that may be assisting with your health care. This may include health care providers and members of your family. By naming a health care agent you are essentially stating that the person you choose is in charge of making health care decisions for you based on the instructions you have given him or her in your health care directive. Along with making decisions based on the instructions you have provided, this person must also make your health care decisions based on any wishes that you have told him or her, and must act in your best interest if your wishes are not known.

If you decide to appoint a health care agent for yourself you also get to choose what powers your health care agent will have if you are ever unable to decide or speak for yourself. You can give your health care agent the power to select your health care providers, review your medical records, and decide where you will live and receive care when those decisions are based on your health care needs.

Your Health Care Goals

The importance of drafting a health care directive is highlighted by the information you provide relating to your beliefs and values concerning your health care. This information is the heart of your health care directive and puts those involved on notice of what you truly want. You can relay any goals for your health care, any fears you may have, your spiritual beliefs, and your thoughts about how your condition may affect your family. You can convey what you would or would not like done relating to medical treatments and artificial techniques to keep you alive, such as, artificial breathing machines or artificial feeding. You can also request what you would like to be done if you are permanently unconscious, completely dependent on others for your care, or have a reasonable chance of recovery. The range of information you can put in your health care directive is quite large, which is why it can be such a useful tool for your family and doctors. However, you cannot request any health care treatment that is outside of reasonable medical practices.

What To Do After Signing A Health Care Directive

After finalizing your health care directive, the document should be kept in a safe place. You may also want to give signed copies to your family, close friends, health care agent, doctors, and any other health care providers that you may have. It also does not hurt to have your doctor review your health care directive so you can make sure your doctor is willing to follow your wishes.

For a more in depth discussion concerning a health care directive for yourself or someone you know, please contact the Law Office of Renee Ashland by phone at 763-691-9883, or by email at bezel@reneeashland.com.