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Advanced Healthcare Directives Lawyers in Haddonfield, NJ

Helping Clients Express Their Goals for Future Care

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have recently conducted a study that found two out of every three adults in the United States have not completed any sort of advanced healthcare directives. Advanced healthcare directives are an essential tool to help individuals communicate their wishes to family members and healthcare professionals about how they would like to be treated.

The attorneys at the Bratton Law Group explain how advanced healthcare directives work and why everyone should consider completing these documents. If you would like to get legal advice concerning your advanced directives or any estate planning matters, contact the Bratton Law Group at 856-644-4280.

What Exactly Are Advanced Healthcare Directives, and Why Do They Matter?

If you find yourself in an emergency situation, facing a terminal illness, or reaching the stage of palliative care, it may be hard to think about your wishes for how you would like to be treated if you become incapacitated and unable to express your preferences to your doctor or family members or make healthcare decisions that affect how you may be treated. This is why completing advanced healthcare directives is so important.

Advanced healthcare directives (or simply advance directives) are documents that work together to inform your healthcare providers as well as your loved ones about how you would like to be cared for if you become incapacitated. Your directives can include a variety of documents that serve as a guide for your loved ones and can help them in the process of making decisions on your behalf and make them feel better knowing that you will be cared for according to your wishes.

Which Documents Should Be Part of My Advanced Directives?

At a minimum, your advanced directives should contain a living will and a healthcare power of attorney. A living will contains specific instructions about your healthcare preferences, types of treatment you wish to receive, your preferred doctors and healthcare facilities, whether you would like to receive any type of end-of-life palliative care or life-sustaining alternatives (such as artificial ventilation or CPR) and any other issues you believe your doctor and your family should know about. You can also include your funeral preferences and any other aspects relevant to your religious or cultural background.

In addition to a living will, you can also include a durable power of attorney for healthcare. This document appoints a person of your choice (called a healthcare proxy) to be in charge of informing doctors about your preferences as stated in your advance directives and to make decisions on your behalf in accordance with your wishes. You can also include specific orders to your doctors, such as a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) or an AND (Allow Natural Death) order. If you do not wish to be hospitalized for end-of-life care, you can complete a DNH (Do not Hospitalize) order, and if you would prefer not to be intubated and receive artificial ventilation, you can complete a DNI (Do Not Intubate) order. It is recommended that you discuss all of your options with your loved ones and with your doctor to ensure you are making choices that align with your personal preferences.

How Do I Know if My Relatives and Doctors Will Respect My Wishes?

Advance healthcare directives are not legally binding documents. They are meant to serve as an official written record of your healthcare wishes, but it is ultimately up to your family members to make sure your wishes are shared with your medical team and that the care you receive is in alignment with your preferences.

It is important to have a conversation with your loved ones and explain your preferences to help them understand what should be done if you become incapacitated. It is also important to inform your loved ones and your doctors about any changes you may have made to your original advanced healthcare directive documents. You will also want to speak to the person you want to appoint as your healthcare proxy to ensure they understand their role and are willing to fulfill it when the time comes.

Can My Advanced Healthcare Directives Be Changed or Canceled?

Advanced healthcare directives can be changed or canceled at any time during your lifetime. Make sure to provide the most updated copies to your loved ones and to your healthcare providers. If you need help completing your advance directive documents or have questions, contact the Bratton Law Group at 856-644-4280.