Advanced Health Care Directive: Delaware County PA Attorney
Advanced Health Care Directive
Also known as a living will, advanced directive or personal directive, the advanced health care directive is a legal document prepared by an individual and their trust planning attorney that specifies what should be done in the event that person is no longer able to make their own healthcare decisions due to physical and/or mental incapacity. The Advanced Healthcare Directive is made up of both a Living Will and a Health Care Power of Attorney.
The Living Will
Medical advances have allowed hospitals to keep people technically alive even though they are in long-term comas or declared braid-dead. When ongoing research found that prolonging a person’s death by putting them on respirators (when there was no chance of them recovering) was expensive, painful and emotionally devastating to their loved ones, the development of advanced health care directives and do-not-resuscitate guidelines ensued to legally give hospitals the ability to rescind their obligation to treat dying patients.
A living will leaves instructions for treating a seriously ill or dying person. Most living wills simply state that the person does not want medical treatment if they are suffering from an irreversible and terminal condition that makes it impossible for them to make rational decisions regarding the medical treatment they receive. For example, a living will may contain instructions for foregoing water, food or medication via intravenous feeding tubes or similar medical devices if the individual faces a negative diagnosis. Pennsylvania’s Department of Aging has specific guidelines for creating legal living wills that states these wills only become operative if the individual’s doctor has a copy of the will and the same doctor has declared that person incompetent or suffering from a “state of permanent unconsciousness”.
Power of Attorney (Health Care Proxy)
Similar to a living will in its ability to authorize unusual actions as requested by the individual (principle) signing the document, a power of attorney authorizes another person (agent) to make decisions on the behalf of someone who is incapacitated and not mentally capable of making the right decisions.
Although an agent is expected to act in the best interest of the principal, it frequently happens that agents neglect to make the best decisions on behalf of the principal for financial reasons. Consequently, anyone drawing up a power of attorney should carefully consider who they appoint as their agent and discuss the matter with a Pennsylvania estate planning attorney before finalizing the document. The Health Care Power of Attorney portion of an Advanced Health Care Directive also allows the agent to access the medical records of the principle and consult with the principle’s doctors in order to help make medical decisions on the principle’s behalf.
In Pennsylvania, anyone over the age of 18 is permitted to create a power of attorney but must have full control of their mental faculties at the time of signing the document.