An advance directive is any type of legal document that outlines your wishes regarding your medical care or treatment before such treatment becomes necessary. The advance directive becomes effective should you become unable to make important medical decisions for yourself.
Importance of Advance Directives
There are many medical treatments that require patient approval before they can be administered. Normally, you would be informed about these procedures once they become necessary, and you would make the decision yourself. If you are unable to make these decisions, however, they fall to your family or, if family is not available, medical personnel who must make these decisions without your input.
Advance directives document your wishes in advance, preserving your dignity and autonomy as a patient while taking the burden of difficult decisions off your family. Advance directives ensure your wishes are carried out in a straightforward way.
Types of Advance Directives
The term “advance directive” covers a wide range of legal documents. The types of directives allowed differ by state. Texas law recognizes the following four types of advance directives:
- Living Will, which gives instructions to administer, withhold, or cease life-sustaining treatment;
- Medical Power of Attorney, which appoints an agent to make certain decisions about life-sustaining treatments;
- Declaration for Mental Health Treatment, which informs hospitals on what types of mental health treatments you desire; and
- Out-of-Hospital Do-Not-Resuscitate (DNR) Order, which declines certain life-sustaining treatments outside of hospital settings.
These advance directives are all legal documents that become effective once you sign them in the presence of witnesses. After that point, if you should become mentally incapacitated and unable to make your own decisions about life-sustaining medical treatment, these directives will be used to determine what treatments you receive.
Creating Advance Directives
To ensure your advance directives—including living will, power of attorney, etc.—are legally efficacious, they must be carefully constructed and properly executed. The estate planning attorneys at Bennett, Weston, LaJone & Turner P.C. can assist you throughout that process and ensure your wishes are carried out.