Advance Health Care Directives Give Relief in Difficult Times

Bill, a strong, active and spirited man in his late 60’s, was heading home after attending a family function. Suddenly his car was struck on his door by another car that had run the red light. Bill immediately lost consciousness. He was transported in ambulance to the hospital. Lucy, his older daughter was notified by the Police. Bill was in critical condition.Fortunately, three years ago, right after losing his wife, Bill had pre-planned for a time such like this. He had contacted the family attorney and had asked of him to prepare his Advance Health Care Directives (AHCD). In that document, Bill had named Lucy, his next of kin, his Health Care Surrogate.Commonly know as a “Living Will”, the AHCD is a legal document in which you state your medical preferences in case you become incapacitated or unable to speak, because of any illness, accident or medical condition. Do you want your life to be prolonged by artificial means? If so, to what extend and by what means? Do you want to receive blood transfusions, respiratory support or cardiac resuscitation?And, what if you become unable to speak, how are you going to communicate your preferences to your medical providers?This is when an AHCD comes into play. In an AHCD not only do you express your health care wishes but also you will appoint someone with power of attorney to make care and treatment decisions on your behalf. You will provide instructions for everything you have a concern for, regarding your health care. This document will speak for you when you are unable to communicate these decisions yourself. Your medical surrogate will act as your agent. This person will voice your decisions.This is how an Advance Health Care Directive works. Before having your attorney draft your AHCD you should contact the person that you have in mind to serve as your medical surrogate. You must communicate to this person that you wish him or her to act as your agent and represent you in case of a medical emergency or situation that could result in your inability to communicate. Talk to this person about what your preferences are in regard to your health care decisions. This would include special treatment you want at the end of life, your desire for surgical procedures and organ donation, for example.You should obtain this persons acceptance before making the appointment in writing. You should do the same with a second individual. This individual will be your alternate surrogate, that is, she or he will represent you before your medical providers, in case the first one is unavailable to take charge. You will then ask your attorney to prepare the form, according to your instructions. Or, you can prepare the form yourself, by getting a model on line from an expert in the field. You should give copies of your AHCD to each person named in it as your agent, to your primary care physician and keep your original in a safe place.When choosing who you are going to designate as your medical surrogate, you should consider that person’s proximity to the area where you reside, to the hospitals in your neighborhood and to your medical providers’ facilities. You should take into consideration that person’s relationship to you and how much you can rely on him or her to take this responsibility. After all, this will be the person that will consent or refuse to any care, diagnostic and treatment medical service offered to address any physical or mental condition from which you might be suffering.The the Police contacted her, Lucy pulled a copy of her father’s AHCD in her home’s safe and went directly to the Emergency Room. She identified who she was and presented the document to the nurses at the station. The nurses made copies of the document, took note of Lucy’s contact information and filed Bill’s AHCD in his medical chart. Every time that a nurse or a doctor opened Bill’s chart, there was his AHCD.Bill had six broken ribs and some lacerations in his face and abdomen. He became conscious after the effect of sedatives. Lucy had fallen asleep on his beside. She had been able to get some rest, knowing that everything would be taken care of the exact same way his father had wished.Consider your options early on and ensure the quality of life that is important to you later. This helps you avoid having your loved ones having to decide critical decisions under stress or in times of emotional turmoil.