In previous centuries, patients could not hope for their life to be extended significantly, and something as simple as the flu frequently resulted in the person’s passing. However, due to the sophistication of modern medicine, we can enjoy longer, more comfortable lives, with a whole range of life-sustaining devices accessible to us, should we require them. Though the value of human life is indubitable, decisions to accept or refuse various medical treatments are not always straightforward. A cancer patient may feel burdened by the severity of their illness, or their pain, and feel that they don’t want to give their life another chance if, for instance, their heart were to simply stop. A person suffering from chronic pain can refuse regular analgesia (pain relief) because it makes them emotionally and physically numb, preventing them from enjoying time with their family. Ethical conflicts of this kind are frequently faced by patients, their families and their doctors.
What Are Advance Medical Healthcare Directives
Advance medical healthcare directives allow you to create specific guidelines for any medical decisions that could be made on your behalf when you are not in the state to make them on your own. Some directives transfer authority to another individual, while others base decisions on the particular instructions you provide. In essence, however, they all want to achieve the same thing: to allow their beneficiaries to live a life of dignity and integrity, both in sickness and in health. Because a person’s free will in context of medical treatment is tremendously important, the Patient Self-Determination Act now legally requires medical institutions to discuss advance healthcare directive options with patients.
Types of Advance Healthcare Directives
A living will is an older form of an advance healthcare directive and it typically aims to provide specific instructions of what kind of procedures the signer would want to accept or refuse. For example, in situations where life-sustaining measures would only support a life of pain, or a life in a coma, it would be possible to instruct your doctor to suspend those measures.
Durable Power of Attorney / Healthcare Proxy
Another option is to choose a person or persons who can make important healthcare decisions for you – these decision-makers would be known as healthcare proxies or persons with durable power of attorney. While popular, this model of an advance healthcare directive does not account for emergency situations in which the person who is required to make a decision is not present. It also fails to consider that the differences between people’s preferences could be vast, and that no matter how close, a good friend or relative may not be able to fully understand or reflect the signer’s true wishes. In addition, many have questioned this model, casting doubts on the decision-makers’ unlikely expertise and their questionable motives.
Other Advance Healthcare Directives
Although both the proxy decision-maker model and the living will model are a big step in advance medical planning, they are still criticized as lacking in both scope and nuance. In the more recent years, a peculiar form of healthcare directive has been suggested, which introduced a new way of looking at how medical decisions are made. This directive would use data about the person’s values (based on relevant questions about other medical and non-medical situations) to determine a particular individual’s preferences. Contrary to expectations, some studies on this approach already demonstrate decision-making accuracy that is unmatched by the previous healthcare directive models.
Choose Your Healthcare Directive Today
Regardless of the kind of advance healthcare directive that appeals to you, you could benefit from having a qualified legal professional on your side during this important process. Contacting us and discussing your options can give you a sense of confidence and security about your future. Call today for a consultation!