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Advance Directives: Why They Are Important

The Becker Law Firm, LPA

Advance directives are a way to communicate your medical intentions in case there comes a time when you cannot speak for yourself. Ohio law provides for three types of advance directives:

  • Durable power of attorney (POA) for health care, which names another person to make medical decisions if you cannot.
  • Living will, which outlines preferences for the end of life.
  • Declaration for mental health treatment, which provides directions for mental health treatment in case you cannot express them.

All of these documents are about future, rather than current, healthcare. They can come into play in a number of scenarios, including hospice care, intensive care after a serious accident or illness, or nursing home care.

Patient Care Could Be Affected

Advance directives can have a monumental impact on a patient’s medical care. An advance directive may mean the difference between “heroic measures” to extend a life and allowing a patient to die without “unnecessary intervention.” To one person, the former may be preferred; to another, the latter.

While it is not pleasant to think about what should happen if a time comes when feedings tubes might be used to sustain life, or when the decision whether to resuscitate must be made, it is still wise to make preferences clear. That way, if serious injury or illness does occur, a patient is treated in the way he or she feels is most dignified, humane and logical.

Legal Procedures Should Be Followed

Aside from family members’ recollections of a patient’s wishes – which could be fallible and not recognized by a court – the advance directive is one of the only ways to know what a patient would want.

Although advance directives are legally in place as soon as they are signed according to the law, this does not necessarily mean they will be honored. It is vital to notify family members and health care providers of the existence of the advance care directive – and give the appropriate people access to copies. If your doctor or spouse does not know about the advance directive, he or she cannot act on it.

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