It is about end of life dignity. Advance directives address the type of healthcare and medical treatment you’d want if you become incapacitated. MarketWatch’s recent article entitled “What happens if you’re incapacitated? How to get your advance directives in order” says if you don’t make these decisions now—and complete the necessary forms to state your wishes—someone else will make the decisions for you down the road.
Advance directives typically consist of a living will and a power of attorney for healthcare. Each state has its own statutory advance directive form. Because these state forms are legal documents, the wording can be pretty formal. People will sometimes forget they’ve filled out the forms. They also forget where they put them.
After completing the proper forms, you must get them to your medical providers, so they know whether to resuscitate you during a medical emergency or administer artificial feeding or hydration.
Make sure you have a discussion with your physician, family and close friends about your values, goals and fears concerning advance care planning.
You should tell them what forms of medical intervention you’d find acceptable and unacceptable—and what level of life-sustaining treatment you’d like if you’re deemed permanently unconscious. That may include considering these types of situations:
- If I am unconscious, in a coma, or in a vegetative state and there is little or no chance of recovery
- If I have permanent, severe brain damage that makes me unable to recognize my family or friends (for example, severe dementia)
- If I need to use a breathing machine and be in bed for the rest of my life
- If I have a condition that will make me die very soon, even with life-sustaining treatments
- If I have pain or other severe symptoms that cause suffering and can’t be relieved
- If I have a permanent condition where other people must help me with my daily needs (for example, eating, bathing, toileting).
When sharing your end-of-life wishes with your physician, he or she may enter your comments into your electronic health record. That way any other healthcare provider with access to those records (such as a hospital system) can retrieve them.
Reference: MarketWatch (Oct. 14, 2022) “What happens if you’re incapacitated? How to get your advance directives in order.”