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Living Wills/Durable Power of Attorney/Advanced Medical Directives

An advance health care directive, also known as living will, personal directive, advance directive, or advance decision, are instructions given by individuals specifying what actions should be taken for their health in the event that they are no longer able to make decisions due to illness or incapacity, and appoints a person to make such decisions on their behalf. A living will is one form of advance directive, leaving instructions for treatment. Another form authorizes a specific type of power of attorney or health care proxy, where someone is appointed by the individual to make decisions on their behalf when they are incapacitated. People may also have a combination of both. It is often encouraged that people complete both documents to provide the most comprehensive guidance regarding their care.


Advance health care directives are written instructions people use to give directions about the type of care they want or don’t want, should they become unable to make health care decisions for themselves. Advance health care directives are commonly found in two forms: 1) a living will, and 2) a durable power of attorney for health care or medical durable power of attorney. Regardless, of the name, these documents are being used with increasing regularity because of the growing concern over how medical decisions are made when people are unable to make such decisions for themselves.


A living will usually provides specific directives about the course of treatment that is to be followed by health care providers and caregivers. In some cases a living will may forbid the use of various kinds of burdensome medical treatment. It may also be used to express wishes about the use or foregoing of food and water, if supplied via tubes or other medical devices. The living will is used only if the individual has become unable to give informed consent or refusal due to incapacity. A living will can be very specific or very general. An example of a statement sometimes found in a living will is: “If I suffer an incurable, irreversible illness, disease, or condition and my attending physician determines that my condition is terminal, I direct that life-sustaining measures that would serve only to prolong my dying be withheld or discontinued.”


More specific living wills may include information regarding an individual's desire for such services such as analgesia (pain relief), antibiotics, hydration, feeding, and the use of ventilators or cardiopulmonary resuscitation. However, studies have also shown that adults are more likely to complete these documents if they are written in everyday language and less focused on technical treatments.


Attorney Brendan M. Kelly has been helping people address estate planning needs and concerns over their own health decision. He will keep you up to date and provide the resources and options you need to meet your needs. Put Brendan to works for you to meet all your needs.


Please note some of the information has been taken from Wikimedia projects http://wikimediafoundation.org/wiki/Home.