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Advanced Healthcare Directives Lawyers in Philadelphia, PA

Guiding Clients Through the Steps to Record Their Wishes for Future Care

Nobody likes to think about the possibility of ever becoming incapacitated and unable to communicate with their family and doctors about how they would like to be cared for, and thus fail to take time to complete their advanced healthcare directives. If that is your case, you are not alone – the majority of American adults have not completed any type of advanced healthcare directives. However, taking this step is crucial to ensure you receive the appropriate care during a time of incapacitation or in an end-of-life situation. Learn how advanced healthcare directives work and see how an attorney can help you through this process. If you have questions about advanced directives in Philadelphia, PA, contact the Bratton Law Group at 267-323-4038.

Is a Living Will the Same Thing as Advanced Healthcare Directives?

You may have heard the term living will be used interchangeably with the term advanced healthcare directives; however, each term refers to different things. A living will is an essential document that allows you to have a written record of your preferences for how you would like to be treated if you were to become incapacitated and unable to communicate.

In contrast, advanced healthcare directives are a set of different documents that work together to communicate your wishes for medical care in case of incapacitation and also appoint someone to speak on your behalf and make decisions for you. Through your advance directives, you have the ability to instruct your doctors and family members on the types of treatments you would or would not like to receive. A living will is an essential piece of your advanced healthcare directives, but each person’s advance directives can also include a variety of other documents.

What Documents Should Be Included in My Advanced Healthcare Directives?

As mentioned above, a living will is one of the most important documents that anyone can include in their advanced directives, as it instructs family members and doctors on how to best care for you if you are temporarily unable to communicate (due to being unconscious) or have become incapacitated due to illness or another condition such as dementia.

In addition to your living will, you can also include a healthcare power of attorney as part of your advanced directives. This document allows you to appoint someone to communicate with doctors and make decisions about your medical care for you, ideally following the preferences you expressed in your living will. This person can be a spouse, family member, or close friend.

Some people choose to also include specific orders for their doctors, such as DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) orders. A DNR order warns doctors not to engage in any type of aggressive procedure to attempt to resuscitate someone in case of cardiac or respiratory arrest, allowing the person to pass away naturally. There are several other possible orders, including DNT (Do Not Intubate) and DNH (Do Not Hospitalize).

How Do I Choose Someone to Appoint as My Healthcare Proxy?

A healthcare proxy plays an important role in helping your family and medical team stay informed of your wishes. Your healthcare proxy is also responsible for making crucial decisions on your behalf while you are unable to communicate. For these reasons, it is important to select your healthcare proxy carefully.

When picking who you will assign as your healthcare proxy, be sure to choose someone who understands your values, beliefs, and healthcare preferences. This person should be someone you trust to make decisions on your behalf and advocate for your best interests. Most people end up selecting a family member (such as a spouse, child, or sibling) or even a close friend who is willing to take on the responsibility and has the ability to effectively communicate with healthcare providers.

Once you have chosen your proxy, it is important to have open and honest conversations with this person about your wishes and expectations. You may want to discuss your healthcare preferences, values, and any specific instructions you have outlined in your living will, making sure they are comfortable with the role and understand their responsibilities. It may be a good idea to review and update your advanced healthcare directives periodically to ensure that your chosen healthcare proxy is still willing and able to fulfill this role.

Why Is It Better to Include My Funeral Preferences in My Advance Directives and Not in My Last Will?

Including funeral preferences in your advance directives rather than your last will ensures that your loved ones know your wishes regarding your funeral arrangements and are able to ensure they are followed immediately after your passing. Unlike a last will, which is typically read and executed after the funeral, advance directives are meant to guide medical decisions and end-of-life care and will most likely be read and discussed before anyone ever gets to read your last will.
Additionally, including funeral preferences in your advance directives helps to alleviate potential conflicts or misunderstandings among your loved ones. Making funeral arrangements can be a highly emotional and personal process in which every family member may end up giving their opinion of how you would have liked your funeral to play out. Having your wishes clearly expressed in your advance directives can help avoid disagreements and provide a sense of peace and closure for your family and friends during a difficult time.

Why Should I Hire an Attorney to Help Me?

While you are not required to hire an attorney to write your advanced directives, the entire process can be overwhelming. An attorney can simplify the steps needed to ensure your wishes for future care are clearly understood. If you want to learn more about advance directives or need help getting started, contact the Bratton Law Group at 267-323-4038.