Taking Charge of Your Healthcare: Fill Out an Advance Directive
Written by: Leah Jeunnette, Ph.D.(c)
As a bioethics consultant, I am training, educating, and supporting individuals, healthcare facilities, and universities.The number one question I receive from individuals concerns advance directives.
Advance directives are not a new topic. In the healthcare ethics community, the topic is basically a given that advance directives should be filled out and provided for physicians, hospitals, or nursing homes. However, the question from the average consumer is still ever present. The reason behind this question, I believe is that individuals see this topic as their first and last defense for autonomy. It is a way for patients to engage in healthcare decisions even prior to any medical concerns.
So what should an advance directive include? The term advance directive is divided into two parts: the healthcare power of attorney and the living will. The healthcare power of attorney identifies who should act as a surrogate decision maker is the patient is unable to do so for themselves. The living will is specific medical needs, wants or refusals that patients can make clear if they are unable to do so at any given time.
Filling out the advance directive is only the first step. When choosing a healthcare power of attorney, the conversation along with the documentation is key. The patient needs to communicate to the chosen power of attorney. They need to discuss what the living will means. The power of attorney needs to ask questions and gain as much clarity as possible. The patient also needs to provide a copy of the advance directive to specific people. The power of attorney should have access to a copy as well as the primary care physician. Anytime the patient goes into the hospital, a copy should be provided as well. The patient should not wait to be asked, because some hospitals do not ask until there is a serious medical problem. Instead, the patient should take charge and provide the advance directive while still able to make their own decisions.
Patients need to be in control of their healthcare, and their autonomy can be better protected by being proactive with the advance directives. Do not wait until there is a serious medical crisis. Instead, make a plan to sit down with your spouse, children, partner, parents, friends, or other family to discuss the advance directive. Prevention in medicine is vital and that includes preventing confusion or unnecessary questions when time is critical. Take charge of your healthcare and fill out an advance directive today.