What are advance directives and why should you have them?

Like others in North Carolina, you may think of estate planning as only a matter for older adults. However, unexpected injuries or illnesses may occur, leaving you unable to speak for yourself. Through advance directives such as living wills and health care powers of attorney, you may specify your wishes to ensure you receive the care you want in the event of your incapacity.

According to the Mayo Clinic, a living will is a legal document that specifies the types of life-saving medical treatments you would and would not want to receive, as well as under what circumstances you would want them administered. The types of medical decisions living wills may address include the use of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), mechanical ventilation, tube feeding, dialysis and palliative care, as well as the administration of antibiotics or antiviral medications used to treat various infections. Through your living will, you may also indicate whether you would like to donate your organs and tissues, or whether you want your body donated for scientific study.

In addition to a living will, you may also establish a health care power of attorney, naming someone to make decisions on your behalf should you become incapacitated and unable to speak for yourself. If situations not anticipated in your living will arise, your health care representative is charged with making judgments regarding your likely care preferences. Therefore, the person you name as your health care representative should be willing to discuss medical and end-of-life issues with you. However, your health care representative should not be your physician or another member of your health care team.

This post is intended only as general information, and therefore, should not be considered legal advice.