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Advance Directives Clarify Patients Wishes

Many people only create an Advance Directive when they become seriously ill. If you are diagnosed with terminal cancer or are admitted to the hospital for another sort of terminal illness, your doctors may discuss Advance Directives with you. However, anyone at least 18 years old and of sound mind can create an Advance Directive and even healthy people should consider acquiring one in case some unforeseen accident happens.

Verbal instructions from patients to doctors will still guide the course of treatment, but if you feel strongly about how you wish to be treated by health care professionals, it is a good idea to have and Advance Directive. Accidents happen sometimes when we least expect them and you may find that you are incapacitated or unable to make decisions about your body and health when you most need to. Having and Advance Directive when you are perfectly healthy isn't betting against yourself; it's planning ahead. Furthermore, with hospitals being so hectic and nurses and doctors stretched so thin, an Advance Directive can ease communication with these professionals even if you are capable of explaining your wishes to them. The formal style and didactic nature of Advance Directives convey the exact information you need to get across quickly, and without confusion.

While you can write out an Advance Directive yourself, it may be beneficial to have a professional help in the process to ensure that your actual wishes are represented in the document and will be followed. For instance, many people writing their own Advance Directives will be very general in expressing their wishes, giving instructions like, “don't prolong the dying process.” This vague statement doesn't discuss what types of attempts should be made to prolong their life, what the odds of success must be to undergo the treatment, and what sort of pain-relieving but non-life-sustaining treatments you desire. Even  patients whose  illnesses are known to be terminal will have opinions about aggressive and painful treatment. An agent under health care power of attorney can help you specify your threshold for treatment based on odds of recovery.

Advance Directives

End of Life Care

Types of Advanced Directives