Advance directives: who should prepare and why

A medical crisis can occur at any time, and although it is a difficult topic, wishes for end-of-life care are an important conversation to have with family and loved ones. Written instructions for the treatment you would like to receive in the event you cannot speak for yourself, advance directives are paramount - especially in the case of an emergency.

having a discussionIn addition to advance directives, it is crucial to appoint a patient advocate to speak on your behalf on the occasion you can no longer make decisions for yourself. A patient advocate should be someone that you have already discussed your health care wishes with, who is willing to ask questions of attending health professionals, and can withstand the pressure of making difficult decisions. This person does not have to be a family member, but can be a trusted friend, minister, rabbi or priest. Whomever you choose as your patient advocate, it should be someone you trust to carry out your wishes in your advance directives.

One instance in which it is crucial to have advance directives is in the event of a medical emergency. Should you be incapacitated, your patient advocate would be responsible for voicing your wishes regarding the treatment you want to receive, which could include decisions such as resuscitation, tube feeding or ventilation. It is important to have advance directives established to ensure your wishes are known and acknowledged, and your family and loved ones understand your wishes as well.

Advance directives are an important legal document to complete long before they are needed. In some situations, in the event you are incapacitated and do not have advance directives, your family may not legally have the right to make decisions for you, and your case may go to probate court to determine guardianship. This may delay treatment and cause stress and tension for your family and loved ones. By having a conversation with family and loved ones, establishing advance directives, and naming a patient advocate, you can rest assured your health care wishes will be fulfilled and decisions made by someone you trust.

Check back next week for part two of our five-part series on advance directives.