You have the right to make choices about your medical care. And although these choices may not be easy to make, setting your preferences down in advance directives ensures that they will be considered even in situations when you are unable to communicate these decisions yourself. Advance directives let your doctor, family and friends know which treatments you want or don't want at the end of your life, whether you would wish to undergo diagnostic testing, surgical procedures, cardiopulmonary resuscitation and other procedures.
In preparing your directives, your physician will help you understand your options for healthcare treatment at the end of your life. Others to consult are your attorney, family members and other trusted advisers. Advance directives may include living will, healthcare directive or durable power of attorney for healthcare.
Living Will or Healthcare Directive
This document tells your doctor what you do or do not want if you are diagnosed with a terminal condition or are permanently unconscious. Your doctor will be required to inform you if any specific treatment is recommended and must honor your decisions as set forth in your living will. Because some healthcare providers may have policies against carrying out your wishes, you should ensure that your directive will be honored or seek other providers.
Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare
This directive states who you want to make healthcare decisions for you if you are unable to make your own because of illness or permanent loss of mental capacity that limits your ability to understand the risks and benefits of treatment options. You may designate your Durable Power of Attorney to become effective only when you are incapacitated or anytime after the document is signed.
Need advice on how to begin the procedure of assembling your advance directives?
Aubre Adams, Health Resource Coordinator at Island Hospital, can provide resources that will help you understand your options and make decisions. Her office is adjacent to the Island Health Resource Center, 1211 24th St., Anacortes. Contact her at (360) 293-1342 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
After you have considered your options, made decisions and signed your Advance Healthcare Directives, you will want to make them available to those who will provide your care and make decisions on your behalf if you are unable to communicate your wishes:
- Keep the original version of your Directives in a safe place.
- Give a copy of your completed Directives to your personal physician, your hospital, your designated decision-maker, family members and/or a friend to ensure it will be available if needed.
- Ask your physician to place a copy of your Directives in your medical records so those who may be involved in your care will know of it.
- Carry a copy of your Directives with you whenever possible, especially when you travel.
Stop by the Island Hospital Health Resource Center to pick up your free copy of Advance Healthcare Directives.
For information on Five Wishes, a program that addresses your personal, emotional and spiritual needs as well as your medical needs, click here.