What Is an Advance Healthcare Directive?

An advanced healthcare directive is a legal document a person creates regarding their wishes for medical care if they are unable to make those decisions for themselves. A document of this type is not just for the elderly or terminally ill; a person of any age can and should have one in place.

By planning for the future, an individual ensures their preferences are honored. This also relieves the burden from loved ones who may not know how to handle critical medical decisions.

Appointing a Health Care Agent

The Advance Healthcare Directive (AHCD) allows a person to appoint an agent (sometimes called a durable power of attorney for health care) to take care of medical treatment. This agent will have full legal authorization to make all health care decisions if the other person is no longer able to speak or think for themselves.

When selecting an agent, a person should choose someone they trust, such as a:

  • family member;
  • romantic partner; or
  • close friend.

The agent should know and understand the other person’s values and beliefs. In addition, the person should have a discussion with their agent, so they fully understand their responsibility.

Generally, an agent can:

  • select or terminate medical institutions or care givers;
  • agree to or refuse medical treatments;
  • access medical records; and
  • agree to or refuse life-sustaining treatments.

In the event of death, a person can also instruct their agent on how they would like their remains handled. For example, they can specify if they would like to donate any of their organs to the hospital.

Preparing Instructions for Health Care

If someone would rather not have an agent take control of their medical autonomy, they can construct a detailed document instructing how they would like their health care handled. In California, this document may also be used as a will.

The instructions should contain any information the provider thinks would be appropriate. A standardized AHCD form includes details concerning the refusal or acceptance of:

  • life-support measures;
  • medications (pain, antibiotics, etc.);
  • use of medical equipment (respirators, catheters, etc.); and/or
  • organ donations.

In the event of an emergency, a paramedic may not be aware of an AHCD. People without an agent should strongly consider filling out a prehospital do-not-resuscitate form (DNR).

AHCD Modifications

A person can modify their AHCD at any time. If they would like to revoke or name another health care agent, they can inform their primary care physician in writing.

If they would like to change or revoke their written instructions, they can do so in any way that gets their point across. This instruction can either be written or verbal, if someone is near and can understand what their wishes are.

Sympathetic Estate Planning Attorneys

At Cianci Law, PC, our advanced health care directive attorneys will work with you to ensure your health care wishes are carried out correctly. We will do everything in our power to help you develop a strong directive.

Call our firm today at (916) 797-1575 or contact us online to schedule your consultation.

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