Why It’s Important to Have an Advanced Care Directive

Sparks Law | August 25th, 2015

An Advanced Care Directive (ACD), also known as a Living Will, is a legal document in which a person gives specific instructions about the healthcare they would like to receive when they are no longer able to express their wishes due to illness or incapacity.

Having an ACD gives you peace of mind that your wishes will be carried out when you’re unable to speak for yourself. It will let your doctor and family know what procedures or treatments you would like to forego or have carried out. The result is that there is no confusion as to what kind of care you would like to have and family members are spared the pain of making these choices for you.

Before you get ready to complete an ACD, you should consider what treatment options you are comfortable with. You may also want to talk with your family and explain to them the choices you’ve made and why you’ve made them.

 

What’s Included in an Advanced Care Directive?

Your ACD will discuss your wishes on organ donation, final disposition of your body, and what types of extraordinary measures you would like made on your behalf – do you want a ventilator used? A feeding tube? Should CPR be used to resuscitate you?

Georgia’s ACD form also allows you to name a Health Care Agent to make health care decisions for you when you are unable to do so and to nominate a guardian in case one is needed.

Please know that ACDs do not provide direction as to what to do after a person has passed. These wishes should be memorialized in a Last Will and Testament. This is why advanced care directives are also known as Living Wills – they are only in force during your lifetime.

 

Other Types of Advance Directives

  • A special health care power of attorney allows you to name someone else to make health care decisions for you when you cannot. (This document is incorporated in Georgia’s ACD form).
  • A Do-Not-Resuscitate Order (DNR) instructs your health care providers against performing CPR if you stop breathing or your heart stops. Your doctor may ask you about this choice and may make note of it on your medical chart. Speak with your doctor if you have any additional questions about this decision.
  • An organ donation card gives permission to harvest your organs after you’ve passed. You may note certain organs that you would not like to have harvested as well. Many people sign up for organ donation when they obtain a driver’s license.
  • You can also give verbal instructions to your family or doctor at any time.

Where to Keep Your Advanced Care Directive

After your ACD is signed and witnessed, make sure to keep a copy in a safe place. Also, it is a good idea to give a copy to your family members, health care provider, and health care agent.

If you make any changes to your ACD, make sure to fill out a new form and have it witnessed again. For more information on our Estate Planning Services, see our Wills, Trusts and Estate Planning page.

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