The importance of an advanced directive

As you get older, planning for your future becomes increasingly important. Having a will and assigning a power of attorney (POA) is important to protect your financial future and ensure your estate is administered according to your wishes. It is also important to complete an advance directive, or medical directive, to plan for your future medical care. An advance directive is a legal document that allows you to make provisions for future health care decisions should you be unable to make them for yourself. In the state of New York there are three types of documents that can be used to make up your advance directive: Health Care Proxy form, Living Will and Do Not Resuscitate Order (DNR).

Health care proxy form

This allows you to appoint a health care agent who can make medical decisions for you if you are unable to make them yourself. Similar to a POA, it should be a person that you trust. For the health care proxy to become effective, two physicians have to decide you are unable to make health care decisions for yourself. Because this person may make decisions regarding treatments and possibly discontinuing treatments, they should be aware of your wishes and be willing to abide by them regardless of their personal feelings.

Living will

Along with a health care proxy, a living will allows you to express your wishes for end-of-life medical care. You can specify which medical treatments you may or may not want, such as tube feeding or artificial respiration. A living will also allows you to dictate if life-sustaining measures should be stopped if there is no hope for recovery. You can also note if you wish to donate your organs, and if you wish to donate your body to science.

Do not resuscitate order (DNR)

A DNR is an order written with your healthcare provider before a situation where your heartbeat or breathing stops. In general, it dictates to healthcare providers, including paramedics or other first responders. you do not want extraordinary measures taken to prolong your life. Specifically, it notes you do not want cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). In New York, there are two types of DNR orders: a Hospital DNR or a Non-Hospital DNR. The key difference is that a non-hospital DNR must be completed using a specific form from the NY Department of Health, and also be signed by your healthcare provider. A hospital DNR can be recorded on a specific facility’s form instead of a state form.

Creating an advance directive and discussing your preferences for end-of-life care can be difficult. However, it is important that your loved ones, as well as your healthcare providers, know what your wishes are, to properly honor them. 

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