Although it is about six months until Virginia’s Annual Healthcare Decisions Day (April 16), it’s never too soon to talk about the benefits of having an Advance Medical Directive in place.
Healthcare Decisions Day is designed to raise public awareness of the need to plan ahead for healthcare decisions related to end of life care and medical decision-making whenever patients are unable to speak for themselves and to encourage the specific use of Advance Directives to communicate these important healthcare decisions. An Advance Directive lets other people know the types of medical care you do and do not want in the event you are unable to express your wishes on your own.
There are two kinds of Advance Directives:
- A Healthcare Power of Attorney allows you to authorize specific people to make decisions for you if you become incapable of making informed healthcare decisions for yourself. You can also specifically tell your agent what kinds of care you do and do not want.
- With a Living Will, you give instructions on the type of healthcare you want or do not want if your doctor(s) determine that you are unable to express your own wishes.
Of the two, the Healthcare Power of Attorney is a broader authorization, as it gives your agent the power to make decisions about the healthcare you will receive whether or not you specifically anticipated the condition. Generally it is useful to incorporate three aspects in the Advance Directive: designating the healthcare agent; stating preferences on healthcare treatment; and authorizing how should have access to your medical records and healthcare providers. Parents whose children who are over 18 should have the children execute an Advanced Directive, granting the parents legal authority to deal with healthcare providers and to make medical decisions.
The Virginia State Bar website has linksfor free forms that can be printed and filled out to appoint an agent to make decisions and to designate the care you want and, more importantly, care you do not want.
The same web site has a link to the Virginia Health Care Directive Registrywhere Virginia residents can securely store important healthcare documents, such as Advance Health Care Directives, Health Care Powers of Attorney, Declarations of Anatomical Gift, and other documents so that family members, medical providers, emergency personnel, or other persons you designate will know how to honor your wishes.