Advance Directives / Living Wills
Every competent adult has, in most cases, the freedom to accept or refuse medical treatment. When you are well, you can talk with your physician and family and make your wishes known. However, severe illness or an accident could cause you to be unable to communicate or to make choices. During that time, important decisions about your medical care may have to be made. Without any written instructions from you, your family and physicians will have to guess what treatment you would want.
In some cases, they may be forced to proceed with treatments they know you would not desire simply because your preference was not expressed in writing. You can help your family and physicians by telling them, in advance, what you would want done in certain situations. This planning ahead for future healthcare decisions is known as an Advance Directive. Your Advance Directive goes into effect only if you become unable to make choices or express your wishes. You can change it at any time up until that point.
You may also choose a person to act as your Health Care Surrogate to make decisions for you if you are unable to make them for yourself. Your Health Care Surrogate is obligated to make the choices he or she believes you would make if you were able. You are encouraged to complete both the Advance Directive and the appointment of a surrogate since not every possible situation is addressed in the Advance Directive. Your Advance Directive can assist your surrogate in determining what your wishes would be.
Before you fill out an Advance Directive form, you may want to talk to your family, friends, physician, lawyer or spiritual advisor. If you choose to designate a Health Care Surrogate, since that person may someday be called upon to make decisions on your behalf, you may want to discuss your thoughts with your surrogate.
When you make your personal choices in the Advance Directive, you may want to consider one question. Is there a condition or set of circumstances which could exist in which you would refuse efforts to prolong your life? The Advance Directive describes three situations and allows you to indicate which treatments you would want or would not want if your physician recommended them. If a situation you are particularly concerned about is not included, you can make additional comments in the section provided.
After you complete it, give a copy to your regular physician, your health care surrogate and to a trusted family member or friend.
The Advance Directive – Living Will form available is a community service project of Lakeland Regional Medical Center. If you have any questions about the form, contact your attorney, physician or clergyman. Also view our Frequently Asked Questions About Advance Directives page.
National Healthcare Decisions Day (NHDD)
NHDD is a collaborative effort with national, state and community organizations committed to ensuring that all adults with decision-making capacity in the United States have the information and opportunity to communicate and document their healthcare decisions. NHDD is supported by 61 national organizations, including AARP, American Bar Association, American College of Physicians, American Hospital Association, American Nurses Association, Association of Professional Chaplains, National Hospice and Palliative Care Association, Social Worker Hospice and Palliative Care Network, Department of Health and Human Services.
To learn more about NHDD, download the NHDD flyer 2010.
Resources for making Healthcare Decisions
American Association of Retired Persons (AARP)
A thorough website with many different resources for the consumer and the professional. The site provides all of the important resources on planning for finances at the end of life, hospice care and advance care planning documents (to provide direction to loved ones regarding end of life issues).
Aging with Dignity
This site is the place to find out everything you need to know about the document entitled Five Wishes, which is an advance directive type tool that helps you, plan for end of life issues. This document is unique in that it addresses the medical, personal, emotional and spiritual needs of those that fill it out. Five Wishes lets your family and doctors know: which person you want to make health care decisions for you when you can’t make them, the kind of medical treatment you want or don’t want, how comfortable you want to be, how you want people to treat you, what you want your loved ones to know. Five Wishes is comprehensive and helpful in many ways.
A website sponsored by National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization. This resource contains excellent basic information, with pages entitled: “Life Planning, Dealing with Illness, and Grieving a Loss.” It offers significant help in having discussions with loved ones about important issues. Contained on the site are state specific Living Wills and Healthcare Powers of Attorney.
Center for Practical Bioethics
A healthcare think-tank that addresses multiple issues related to the delivery of health care. On this site, there are pamphlets and other materials for sale that encourage planning for medical decision. “Caring Conversations” incorporates life review to help give patients and caregivers a better foundation for the choices they want to make.
Put It In Writing
A website sponsored by the American Hospital Association. This helpful source of information encourages readers to talk with their families, friends and doctors, to know the options and decide what is right for them and then…put it in writing. They define an advance directive as “your life on your terms.” The site also has many links to other organizations: the American Bar Association, the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization and the Institute for Health Care Advancement.
American Bar Association (ABA)
Information from the ABA’s Commission on Law and Aging. Good advance planning for health care decisions is, in reality, a continuing conversation – about values, priorities, the meaning of one’s life, and quality of life. To help you in this process, this tool kit contains a variety of self-help worksheets, suggestions, and resources. There are 10 tools in all, each clearly labeled and user-friendly. The tool kit does not create a formal advance directive for you. Instead, it helps you do the much harder job of discovering, clarifying, and communicating what is important to you in the face of serious illness.
For additional information, you are encouraged to speak to any of the following:
- Your personal priest, pastor or spiritual leader
- Your personal attorney or legal advisor
- LRMC Risk Management department (687-1025)
- LRMC Pastoral Care department (687-1247)
- LRMC Palliative Care service (687-1100 ext. 7617)