Advance Directives (cont.)
Reasons for an Advance Directive
An advance directive is purely optional. All health care facilities such as
hospitals that accept federal funding are required by law to ask if you have one
and offer you the appropriate information and documents to sign one, if you so
- You should consider an advance directive if any of the following are true:
- You want to be sure your voice is heard when you can no longer communicate.
- You want to be sure that your wishes are respected and followed in the event that you are unable to make medical decisions for yourself.
- You want to be sure that you are not placed on life-support machines or receive other life-prolonging treatment against your wishes if you suffer from a terminal condition.
- You want to be sure that, if you fall victim to a cardiac arrest after you have suffered with a long-term, end-stage medical condition, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) or other heroic measures will not be performed so long as this is in line with your values and preferences.
- No doctor or health care professional can force you to complete an advance directive, they can only recommend it.
- If you do not complete an advance directive, then you will receive medical care to the fullest extent appropriate for your condition. In these situations, your next of kin automatically becomes your surrogate decision maker.
- It is often more difficult for family members and next of kin to make end-of-life decisions for a patient than it would be had the patient's wishes been clearly delineated. The emotional pressure, feeling of guilt and grief about making the wrong choice, and uncertainty about the patient's own preferences can be overwhelming for the loved ones. Even if a legally executed living will is not done, as an alternative, it is important that people communicate verbally with their family members and loved ones to specify their wishes in case of terminal medical conditions.
- If you cannot speak for yourself and you do not have an advance directive, then health care professionals will look to the following people, in the order listed, for guidance with your care:
- Your guardian (if court appointed)
- Your spouse
- Your adult child (or the majority of adult children who are reasonably available)
- Either of your parents
- Your adult brother or sister (or the majority who are reasonably available)
- Other adult relatives
- A close friend who is familiar with your activities, health, or religious or moral beliefs
- A court-appointed or state-assigned conservator in cases where no relative or friend exists to guide medical decision making (conservators may be previously assigned to a patient, otherwise this could be a very lengthy legal process)
- Primary care physicians or attending physicians are in rare cases asked to comment or decide on a patient's behalf and in patient's best interest if all efforts have been exhausted to find a surrogate decision maker.
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