Who decides your fate when you become unable to make your own decisions about remaining on life support? Your spouse? Your parents? The courts?
The simplest way to ensure your wishes are carried out by those you trust is to prepare your own Advance Directive. An advance directive (directive to the physician, family, and surrogate) is designed to help you communicate your wishes about your medical treatment at some time in the future when you are unable to make your wishes known because of an illness or injury.
These wishes are usually based on personal values. In particular, you may want to consider what burdens or hardships of treatment you would be willing to accept for a particular amount of benefit obtained if you were seriously ill. You are encouraged to discuss your values with your family or chosen spokesperson, as well as your physician.
Common Advance Directives
1. A Directive To Physicians (Living Will) – Living Will (officially called a “Directive to Physicians”in Texas) is a document that tells your doctor or other health care providers whether or not you want life-sustaining treatments or procedures administered to you if you are in a terminal condition. It is called a “Living Will” because it takes effect while you are still living.
2. Medical Power of Attorney or Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care – Medical Power of Attorney is a written document you sign naming a person to make health care decision, should you become unable to make such decisions for yourself.
Points to Remember About Advance Directives
- Include your loved ones in Advance Directives discussion and decision making.
- Your physician and health care facility representative should also be consulted.
- Inform people, such as your family, close friends, and physician, about your Advance Directive.
- If desired, you can fill out both a living will and a durable power of attorney for health care.
- A lawyer generally is not necessary for filling out an Advance Directive.
- An Advance Directive can be changed or revoked at any time.
- Advance Directives have no effect until the time when you can no longer make or communicate decisions for yourself.
- Advance Directives expand your decision-making power and your control over your care.