FindLaw KnowledgeBasePublished: 2012-08-14
Few people like to think about the possibility there will be a time when they cannot communicate with their doctors about the care they wish to receive. However, life is unpredictable and people can never know when an accident may happen that leaves them unable to make decisions. Therefore, it is important for people to record their wishes while they are competent. People in Georgia should understand the importance of having an advanced health care directive as part of their estate plans.
What Is an Advanced Health Care Directive?
A Georgia advanced health care directive combines the information and authority that was previously confined to a living will and a durable power of attorney for health care. An advanced health care directive spells out a person’s wishes about the type of medical care he or she wishes to receive when the person cannot communicate with medical staff.
The document also gives another individual the authority to make decisions regarding medical care and sign releases on another’s behalf. The agent can decide whether to allow an autopsy, donate organs and make arrangements about the final disposal of a person’s body.
What Is Included in an Advanced Health Care Directive?
There are several parts to an advanced health care directive. The document must name a person who has the authority to make decisions. People usually select spouses or children for this role, but it is not necessary to choose a family member. Anyone over the age of 18, or an emancipated minor, to whom a person trusts and is of sound mind can fill the role.
Additionally, an advanced health care directive gives instructions about:
- Treatment preferences: People can record whether they wish to have hydration and nutrition through feeding tubes if they are in vegetative states, whether they wish to be on a ventilator, whether they wish medical staff to perform CPR if their hearts fail and whether they have any religious beliefs prohibiting certain forms of medical care.
- Guardianship: The advanced health care directive also allows people to nominate a guardian should it become necessary for the court to appoint one.
What Are the Benefits?
Having an advanced health care directive allows people to remain in control of their medical care decisions even when they cannot speak for themselves. The directive makes things easier for loved ones because they know what a person’s wishes are regarding medical care and they do not have to guess what a person would want them to do.
Additionally, by expressly granting someone legal authority to make decisions, the directive makes the medical care process go more smoothly. Medical personnel do not have to wonder whether they are violating medical privacy laws by sharing information and allowing a person to sign off on procedures.
Talk to a Lawyer
An advanced health care directive is just one piece of a comprehensive estate plan. If you do not have an advanced health care directive or you have questions about estate planning, consult an experienced estate planning attorney who can discuss your situation with you and advise you of your options.