Advance Directives: Ensuring Healthcare Desires are Respected
If you become unable to make healthcare decisions due to serious medical conditions, will you receive the medical treatment you desire? You can ensure your healthcare decisions are respected by having an Advance Directive, which is a document stating your healthcare choices or naming someone to make the choices for you if you become unable to do so.
There are two types of Advance Directives. One is known as a Living Will, which directs a physician that certain life-sustaining procedures should be withheld or withdrawn if you are in a terminal condition and unable to decide for yourself. Life-sustaining procedures are any mechanical or artificial means that prolong the dying process for a terminal patient, such as a mechanical respirator. Medication or medical procedures necessary to provide comfort or ease pain are not considered life-sustaining procedures and are not withheld under a Living Will.
The second type of Advance Directive is a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care, and is a document through which you name another person, known as your “agent,” to make healthcare decisions for you if you are unable to make them. This person is then required to make decisions according to directions you may provide in the document or otherwise. If your wishes are not known, this person shall make decisions in your best interests. The person you name in a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care should be someone you trust and who has consented to act as your agent. The law does not allow your agent to be your doctor, nurse, or other person providing healthcare to you, or their organization’s employees, unless that person is a close relative.
It is important to discuss your healthcare wishes with your agent, healthcare providers, and family members so they know what to do in the event the need arises. It not only respects and honors your wishes, it also makes it a bit easier for your agent and healthcare providers to perform their responsibilities during such an event. Even if you have a Living Will and/or Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care, it is important to talk to your family and your doctor about your desires to be resuscitated if your heart or breathing stops. If you want, your doctor may be able to put a special order called a Do Not Resuscitate Order (DNR) in your medical chart, or an Out-of-Hospital DNR that makes the DNR portable outside of the healthcare facility setting. Although healthcare providers do not perform life saving efforts on DNR patients, they still keep them as comfortable and free from pain as possible.
To get a Living Will or Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care, you must complete a form containing both Advance Directives. This form is available through your attorney or Lakes Regional Healthcare Social Services Coordinator Sharee Green. Green also has a brochure that has a request form you can complete and send into the Iowa State Bar Association. Upon receiving the request form, the Iowa State Bar Association will mail an Advance Directives form to you. Once you complete the form, you should place the original in a safe location known and accessible to family members or close friends, give copies to your doctor, your local hospital, family members, your designated agent, and an attorney.
Anyone interested in learning more about Advance Directives can call Lakes Regional Healthcare Social Services Coordinator Sharee Green at 712-336-8779.