The Living Will and Durable Power of Attorney for Health care are designed to either help you dictate your own care plan before the fact or grant broad authority to others to make healthcare decisions on your behalf in the event you are unable to do so.
Advance Directives are a right of the patient, not a requirement of the hospital. However, these documents can spare your family members the anguish of trying to second-guess your final wishes if faced with a medical crisis.
The living will makes it possible for the patient to dictate specific treatment plans for medical conditions considered terminal.
Durable power of attorney (DPA)
This is used in cases where patients are unable to make their own healthcare decisions. Instead, those choices fall to another individual - granted that authority by the patient.
DPA is not related in any way to the financial power of attorney. No one can sign an advance directive on behalf of a non-responsive or incompetent patient - not even someone assigned as legal power of attorney or guardianship.
Do Not Resuscitate (DNR)
This is a doctor's order created in consultation with the patient and family. It stipulates that no procedures be attempted to restore life for someone facing an irreversible condition, other than to maintain physical comfort. By comparison, Living Wills and DPAs are solely the prerogative of the patient.
When to complete
Even if you are in good health, you might want to consider signing Advance Directives. Far too many Advance Directives are created under extreme duress. An accident or serious illness can happen suddenly, and if you already have these documents in place, your wishes are more likely to be followed.
Who can help me create an Advance Directive?
St. Luke's Spiritual Care staff has extensive experience helping patients and their families complete Advance Directives, free of charge.
Forms are available in the Spiritual Care offices near the A Avenue lobby on the first floor of the hospital - best accessed weekdays between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Forms may also be available from your physician, attorney and in some legal software packages.
These documents must be witnessed by two adults OR notarized (not both). Of the two witnesses, one must be unrelated to the person the documents pertain to. Neither witness can be the durable power of attorney or the alternate durable power of attorney. Please note, St. Luke's Spiritual Care does not routinely provide notary service.
Where should copies of my Advance Directive be kept?
Once prepared, it's a good idea to have these documents filed with your medical records upon admission to the hospital. Also, be sure that the person(s) you have chosen to act on your behalf if you are unable to do so have a copy.
Communicate, communicate, communicate
Advance Directives are a very important tool for helping ensure your wishes are known in the event of a medical crisis. However, nothing is more important than verbally communicating your desires directly to the people who love you before a crisis arises. When completing your Advance Directives, talk with your loved ones about your decisions.