Advance Health Care Directive

An Advance Health Care Directive allows you to make sure your health care wishes are known and considered if you are incapacitated and therefore unable to communicate your desires. The law governing Advance Health care Directives ("AHCD") became effective on July 1, 2000 and is meant to replace those laws governing the durable power of attorney as it relates to health care. However, if your power of attorney for health care was created before July 1, 2000, your document is still legally binding.

The "Living Will" and "Directive to Physician" which terminated life support under the repealed law may still be accomplished by giving a person instructions regarding health care decisions or to stipulate in an Advance Health Care Directive that you wish to have use of life support medical equipment discontinued.

An AHCD may include a power of attorney for health care ("PAHC") designating an agent to make decisions regarding health care options for you as well as health care instructions. Once you designate an agent in your AHCD it gives this person the power or ability to decide, on your behalf, various health care related choices on your behalf. Your agent can be a spouse, member of the family, or a friend.  To avoid conflict-of-interest issues, the agent you select cannot be a medical care provider, operator of a community or neighborhood care facility, operator of a care facility for the elderly, or in most cases, any employee of any of these facilities.

The person you appoint, known as your "agent," will have the legal authority to make decisions about your medical care if you are unconscious or cannot make these decisions for yourself. The agent of your choosing is legally bound to carry out your wishes, as put forth in your Advance Health Care Directive document. If you at some point become incapacitated, your agent's authority overrides others' and this person will decide on your behalf various treatment options, as spelled out in the document. You may limit your agent's authority when you complete the Advance Health Care Directive form.

The designated agent must exercise their power or do what was asked of them as determined in the AHCD according to your wishes. You may make these desires known to your agent in any manner, including by conversation, be it in person or on the telephone. The agent has broad powers to make medical care decisions in your place, that could impact either or both your and mental or physical condition, as expressed by you in the document. Outlined in the statute are some procedures which the agent may never authorize including abortion, sterilization, psychosurgery or have you committed to a mental hospital or institution.

You may grant powers to your agent to terminate use of life support equipment, donate your body parts as needed, authorize an autopsy if warranted and decide what is to be done with your remains. You may also deny these powers of your agent. Health care decisions may also include selection and dismissal of health care providers and institutions; diagnostic test or surgical procedure approval or disapproval, medication programs; and directions to provide, withhold, or withdraw artificial hydration and nutrition and all health care of other forms, including cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

The AHCD can be revoked by you at any time. If you do not revoke the AHCD, it will remain effective indefinitely except in the event that a termination date was specified in the document that predates your death.