Advanced Care Planning

Advanced Care Planning

Advance care planning is the process of making your healthcare wishes known, in the event that something should happen unexpectedly, leaving you unable to communicate your preferences and personal beliefs in healthcare.  Part of the planning process includes completing advance directives, which is putting your preferences into writing.

Advance directives are written, legal instructions that are recognized and valid throughout the United States (Living Will and Medical Power of Attorney).  Advance directives guide your healthcare provider and loved ones to make appropriate medical choices on your behalf.  It is not necessary to have a lawyer fill out an advance directive with you. Once you complete it and have it signed by the required witness, it becomes valid. Also, advance directives do not expire, but if you complete a new one, the previous version is now unacceptable for use.

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Medical Power of Attorney

A Medical (healthcare) Power of Attorney is an advance directive that allows you to choose a person you trust as your healthcare agent. This person will act on your behalf, if you are unable to communicate. A physician must declare that you are unable to make your own medical decisions, putting the Medical Power of Attorney ability into effect.  In addition:

  • Your Medical Power of Attorney cannot continue to act on your behalf, if you resume the ability  to make and communicate your own decisions,
  • Additional requirements regarding decisions about life-sustaining medical treatments are specific to each state.

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Living Will

Like a Medical Power of Attorney, a Living Will is an advance directive. It actually guides your loved ones and healthcare provider through the medical treatment you wish to receive if you are unable to communicate. Before your Living Will can act as a guide to your medical decision-making, two physicians must certify the following:

  • You are unable to make medical decisions.
  • You have the medical condition specified in the state’s Living Will law (e.g., “terminal illness” or “permanent unconsciousness”).
  • Additional requirements are specific to each state.
Other helpful information
  • Advance directives are state specific. Titles and even laws may adjust, depending upon where you live.  Be sure you comply with your state’s law when completing your advance directive.
  • Every state is different. Some states do not recognize another state’s advance directive. For instance Idaho Advance Directives and Oregon Advance Directives are both honored in each state. Other states may honor out-of-state advance directives as long as they are similar to that state’s own law. If you spend a significant amount of time in an additional state(s), you should complete the advance directives for those states.
  • Living Wills or Medical Powers of Attorney cannot be honored by Emergency Medical Technicians. Once called, emergency personnel must take all necessary measures to stabilize you for transfer to a hospital (from an accident site or place of residence). After a physician does an evaluation and determines the underlying conditions, advance directives can then be carried out.