Advance directives: misconceptions

There is no legal document that can account for all medical emergencies, but in case of an emergency, advance directives can provide invaluable guidance to your family, friends and loved ones. In addition to advance directives, a patient advocate is someone who understands and respects your wishes and will speak on your behalf in the instance you are incapacitated. Although there are many resources regarding advance directives, there are also many misconceptions.

Advance directives are not a legal document

One common misconception about advance directives is their legality. Advance directives are a legal document, but do not require an attorney to complete them. When completing advance directives, you must have two witnesses, and they cannot be anyone with a vested interest in your health outcome, including your spouse, children, medical staff, or anyone who stands to inherit your estate in the event of your death.

Advance directives shouldn't be completed until you are certain

An additional misconception is that you should not complete advance directives until you are certain of the treatments you want to receive. This is untrue, because although advance directives are a legal document, they can be changed and updated at any time. Making decisions about your health care can be overwhelming, and it is something that takes time to contemplate. You should not feel pressured to complete your directives, rather, you should take the time to understand what advance directives are, determine what kinds of treatment you want, and take time to discuss your wishes and concerns with family and loved ones.

My patient advocate cannot be revoked

In the event of conflict, death, divorce or revocation, you have the ability to establish a new patient advocate. Your patient advocate can also revoke his or her responsibilities at any time. This is important to understand because when you choose an advocate, you should have a conversation so you both understand the responsibilities.

By creating advance directives, I am giving up my rights

By creating advance directives and naming a patient advocate, you are not giving up your rights. If you are competent, you still have the right to make your own decisions about the treatment you want to receive, even if the treatment you want differs from what is documented in your advance directives.

My medical team will keep me alive against my wishes

Another misconception to keep in mind when creating advance directives is the notion that physicians and medical staff will keep you alive no matter the circumstances. This is notion is not true; if you have advance directives established, it is the physician and medical staff's responsibility to honor your wishes.

Once you have completed your advance directives, file them with your primary care physician as part of your medical records. If you want to change your directives, be sure to inform your physician, destroy all copies of your old ones and replace with copies of your new one. In order to provide our patients with the best care, patients of McLaren Homecare or Hospice will be informed about advance directives and asked whether they have them completed. If you or your loved one has completed advance directives, we will request a copy of the signed form to put in your record.

To request your free advance directives booklet from McLaren, click here:

request advance directives booklet