None of us wants to think about failing health and death. However, as a former family physician, I can assure you being proactive regarding these issues can be significantly beneficial for patients, families and health care providers. Recent national events clearly highlight this point. I urge you to talk this over with your family and personal physician and make your wishes known.
Alan C. Carter, DO
Download a copy of our Advance Directive Booklet
What are advance directives?
Advance directives tell your doctor what kind of care you want if you become unable to make medical decisions (if you are in a coma, for example).
Effective advance directives describe the kind of treatment you would want for different levels of illness. For example, the directives would describe what kind of care you’d want if you had a critical illness, a terminal illness, or permanent unconsciousness. Advance directives are often written to tell your doctor that you don’t want certain kinds of treatment no matter how ill you are. However, they can also say that you do want a certain treatment.
Advance directives can take many forms. Laws about advance directives vary from state to state. You should be aware of your state’s laws regarding the scope of advance directives and requirements that apply to them.
Who should have an advance directive?
Most advance directives are written by older or seriously ill people. However, you might want to consider writing an advance directive even if you are in good health. An accident or serious illness can happen suddenly. If you already have a signed advance directive, your wishes are more likely to be followed. Also, you can spare your family members the stress of trying to decide what you would want them to do.
Advance directives do not have to be complicated legal documents. They can be short, simple statements about what you want done or not done if you can’t speak for yourself.
Can advance directives be changed?
Yes, advance directives can be changed. To do this, destroy all copies of your previous advance directive and create a new version. Notify your doctor and anyone else who has been involved in the process that you have changed your advance directive and submit the new version for your medical record.