|What is an advance directive for health care, and will it
help me avoid court involvement during incapacity?
At some point in your life, perhaps as a result of illness,
accident, or advanced age, you may lack the mental capacity to make or
communicate responsible decisions about your own health care. Without
directions to the contrary, medical professionals are generally compelled to
make every effort to save and maintain your life. Depending on your attitude
toward various medical treatments and your views on the quality of life, you
may want to take steps now to control your future health-care decisions. You
can do so by adopting one or more advance directives for health care. If you
do not adopt such a directive for health care, a family member may have to
petition the court for the authority to make those decisions for you.
There are three types of advance directives for health
care. Each serves a different function, as described briefly below. Be aware
that not all are allowed in every state. Check with your state to find out
which one(s) you can consider.
Living will: A living will lets you decline certain types
of medical care, even if you will die as a result. Generally, a living will can
be used only to decline medical treatment that "serves only to postpone the
moment of death."
Durable power of attorney for health care, or health-care
proxy: A durable power of attorney for health care, or health-care proxy, lets
you appoint a representative to make medical decisions on your behalf. It
becomes effective only when you've become incapacitated. You decide how much
power your representative will have.
Do Not Resuscitate order (DNR): A DNR is your doctor's
order that tells all other medical personnel not to perform CPR if you go into
cardiac arrest. There are two types of DNRs. One is used while you are
hospitalized. The other is used while you are outside the hospital.