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What Is An Advance Health Care Directive?

An Advance Health Care Directive is a legal document that makes your wishes known concerning the disposition of your medical and health care needs in the event you become mentally incapable or otherwise unable to make medical decisions for yourself.

When you have an Advance Health Care Directive drawn up, you can do either one of two things. You may appoint someone, a relative, husband, wife, child, parent, friend, or anyone of your choosing as long as they are an adult, giving them the legal authority to make medical decisions for you, or you can write down your wishes on the Advance Health Care Directive form. In either case, your doctor or other health care professionals must follow your instructions.

Although you can appoint more that one agent to handle your medical wishes, it is highly recommended that you only chose one person, someone you can trust, as your primary agent. Then appoint one or more alternative agents in case the primary agent is unwilling or unavailable to make a decision concerning your health care needs. State laws may prohibit doctors, persons who operates community health care facilities, or the health care facility in which you are being treated, from being chosen as your health care agent.

If you become incapable of making your own health care decisions, your agent will have the legal authority to make decisions for you concerning health care matters, including whether or not you receive further medical treatment. That person will also have access to your medical records, make decisions regarding your remains if you should die, and have authority over whether or not your organs are donated, unless you specify your wishes in writing.

Your agent will not have authority to make decisions concerning your health if you are still capable of making such decisions unless you authorize the agent to make those types of decisions immediately. If your instructions are in writing, your agent must follow your directives as you have laid them out.

You should make sure that the directive is filled out properly, signed, dated, and notarized. If there is no notary available, you can sign the document in the presence of two qualified witnesses. As with all important documents, you should file your original Advance Health Care Directive in a safe place, give copies to your agent, your alternative agents, and/or family members.

If you change your mind about anything concerning the disposition of your health care before you become unable to speak for yourself, you can revoke the Advance Health Care Directive at any time by completing a new directive. This will revoke all previous directives. You should then inform your treating physician and notify your agent, alternative agents, and family members in writing, especially if you going to name someone else as your primary agent.

In most states, the Advance Health Care Directive is recognized as the format for a living will. The big difference between an Advance Health Care Directive and a living will is that the directive can be for health care in any situation, not just when you are terminally ill or in a coma and it allows someone else to speak on your behalf if you are unable to.

For more information on Advance Health Care Directives in your state, you can go online and type in the name of your state followed by the words Advance Health Care Directives. An example would be: Ohio Advance Health Care Directives.

If you feel the need for legal assistance concerning your Advance Health Care Directive, you should consult an attorney for help in filling it out.

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