Why Advance Directives Are Important

Advance directives are a way for you to give consent to the treatments that should or should not be given in the event a medical situation arises which requires a decision, and you're unable to speak for yourself. They can also be used to appoint someone to make decisions for you. Advance directives give you a better chance of having your wishes carried out, even if you can't speak to your doctors about your wishes. Also, advance directives take pressure off family members if decisions must be made about medical care and you are unable to communicate.

Even though others may be able to make health care decisions for you without advance directives, it can give you more control over those decisions and who makes them. Advance directives consist of (1) a Health Care Proxy and (2) a Living Will. A Health Care Proxy, also referred to as a "Medical/Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care," is a legal form that authorizes a person of your choice to make healthcare decisions for you in case you are unable to speak for yourself. A Living Will is a set of written instructions that outlines your healthcare wishes. If you have a both advance directives, the Living Will provides the instructions for the proxy.

When you select a Health Care Proxy, it should be someone you trust who understands your wishes and feels comfortable honoring your healthcare decisions. This person should be someone that is familiar with your views about medical care, including the role of life-sustaining treatments like mechanical respiration, and will uphold your wishes as medical situations arise.

In order to designate a Health Care Proxy, a form must be completed, which becomes a legally binding document. You, health care agent, and two witnesses must sign this form. After the Health Care Proxy is signed, all health care professionals, hospitals and health care facilities such as nursing homes NJ are legally obligated to follow medical instructions provided by your health care agent, if you're unable to communicate. If your first choice isn't available or unable to uphold your medical wishes, an alternate agent may also be chosen. You can change your designated health care agents at any time.