Who Will Speak for You… If You Can’t Speak for Yourself?
What do Health Care Proxies, Do Not Resuscitate orders, and Living Wills have in common? All three are legal documents that communicate your end of life choices to family members, caregivers, and doctors if you cannot speak them yourself.
These documents, called Advance Directives permit you to explain your end of life choices to others even if you slip into a coma, are in the advanced stages of dementia or are unable to speak. Advance directives inform others if you want any interventions at the end of life or if you want only palliative care.
April 16, 2015 is National Healthcare Decision Day, a day set aside to remind us all that life is fragile and even the healthiest of us can be faced with life and death decisions. It urges us to document what kind of care we want at the end of life, just in case.
Below is a brief description of each:
A Health Care Proxy is a legal document that allows you to appoint someone you trust to make health care decisions for you if you lose your ability to make decisions yourself. Your agent can be a family member, friend, or anyone else you trust as long as he is 18 years of age or older. By appointing a health care agent, you can make sure that health care providers follow your wishes.The form can be activated without an attorney; all you need are two adults that witness the agreement. You can also void the agreement at any time.
A Living Will is a written statement that informs medical professionals whether you do or do not want life-sustaining treatment if you are terminally ill. It allows you to state under what circumstances you want to be kept live if your body cannot sustain itself. There is no designated document for a living will but New York State has a form called a Medical Order for Life Sustaining Treatment (MOLST) that spells out under what circumstances you want or do not want a feeding tube, IV fluid or intubation at the end of life.
A Do Not Resuscitate directive is a form that tells medical staff not to revive you if your heart stops or you stop breathing. Unlike a living will or health care proxy, a DNR is state specific. It must be signed by a doctor and it only stays valid for only 90 days.