What is an Advance Health Care Directive or Living Will?
An Advance Health Care Directive or living will is a document that helps one prepare for end-of-life medical decision, and is often paired with a power of attorney for health care.
Such a document is important because, given a medical situation in which someone can’t speak for himself, it lets medical providers and other decision makers know the individual’s preferences, and it can authorize someone to speak on the person’s behalf. Without an advance health care directive or living will, patients who can’t communicate may be left to the confused decisions of squabbling family members or the mercy of doctors who might use artificial means to prolong life, or refuse to do so, regardless of what the patient would want.
How do I prepare a living will and advance medical directive forms?
Preparing documents for a living will and advance directive can be done at any time during an adult person’s lifetime. As one’s preference can naturally change during one’s life, these documents can also be amended and modified to reflect the changes.
Obtaining medical advance directive documents is simple. Medical offices, hospitals, social workers, attorneys, and even post offices may carry these documents. Hospitals receiving medical and Medicaid payments are required to offer their patients these documents. A good place to begin this process is an open discussion with a primary-care doctor or other treating physicians.