Texas Rainmaker
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March 24th, 2005 9:32 pm
Lessons Learned: Who Will Speak For You, When You Can’t Speak For Yourself?
If there is anything positive that can result from the avalanche of media attention on the case of Terri Schiavo, perhaps it’s that more people will become educated on the importance of Advance Directives.

There are several types of Advance Directives that can be constructed.

Living Will


A living will only comes into effect when you are terminally ill. Being terminally ill generally means that you have less than six months to live. In a living will, you can describe the kind of treatment you want in certain situations. A living will doesn’t let you select someone to make decisions for you.

Advantage:
Preserves your wishes in their original form, even if you’re no longer capable of conveying them.

Disadvantages:
People often find it hard to contemplate what they’d want in an unknown scenario.
May leave room for interpretation if there are a unique set of circumstances.

Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare

A durable power of attorney (DPA) for health care is another kind of advance directive. A DPA states whom you have chosen to make health care decisions for you. It becomes active any time you are unconscious or unable to make medical decisions. A DPA is generally more useful than a living will. But a DPA may not be a good choice if you don’t have another person you trust to make these decisions for you.

Living wills and DPAs are legal in most states. Even if they aren’t officially recognized by the law in your state, they can still guide your loved ones and doctor if you are unable to make decisions about your medical care. Ask your doctor, lawyer or state representative about the law in your state.

Advantage:
Allows you to designate someone to make decisions on your behalf, and allows more flexibility because your agent can consider the specific circumstances in rendering a direction.

Disadvantages:
Very powerful document requires absolute trust in your agent. May require diligence in keeping it up to date depending on your relationships.

Do Not Resuscitate Order

A do not resuscitate (DNR) order is another kind of Advance Directive. A DNR is a request not to have cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) if your heart stops or if you stop breathing. (Unless given other instructions, hospital staff will try to help all patients whose heart has stopped or who have stopped breathing.) You can use an Advance Directive form or tell your doctor that you don’t want to be resuscitated. In this case, a DNR order is put in your medical chart by your doctor. DNR orders are accepted by doctors and hospitals in all states.

Advantage:
Clear indication of whether you want potential life-saving techniques like CPR performed on you.
Disadvantages:
Inability to predict the circumstances under which CPR might be needed.

While most Advance Directives are written by older or critically ill people (ie. someone with terminal cancer might write that he does not want to be put on a respirator if he stops breathing), you might still want to consider writing an advance directive if you’re young and in good health (Terri Schiavo was 26). An accident or serious illness can happen suddenly, and if you already have a signed advance directive, your wishes are more likely to be followed.

Advance directives do not have to be complicated legal documents. They can be short, simple statements about what you want done or not done if you can’t speak for yourself. Remember, anything you write by yourself or with a computer software package should follow your state laws (here’s a list of forms by state). You may also want to have what you have written reviewed by your doctor or a lawyer to make sure your directives are understood exactly as you intended. When you are satisfied with your directives, the orders should be notarized if possible, and copies should be given to your family and your doctor.

Let’s make a difference. Once you’ve completed your Advance Directive, come back here and leave a comment telling others just how easy it was and together we can make sure that others don’t have to go through what Terri Schiavo and her family are going through.

Others blogging for the cause:

Posted by TexasRainmaker |
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