Find Laws Find Lawyers Free Legal Forms USA State Laws
Home » Find Laws » Elder Law Laws » Advance Directives » Your Background on Advance Directive

Your Background on Advance Directive

Background Advance Directive

In most cases, advances in modern medical technology are considered to be beneficial to society. However, these procedures are often utilized to prolong the lives of terminally ill and individuals and patients in a comatose or vegetative state. As such, advances in health care technology have caused many people to seek advance directives in order to ensure that their wishes regarding health care treatment and procedures are upheld. If an individual does not possess an advance directive, it is likely that he/she will be subjected to resuscitation and life support techniques in the event that he/she experiences cardiac arrest, respiratory failure, or any other form of life-threatening complication. These techniques and procedures are often painful and expensive. They generally only succeed in prolonging life for a short time, not curing illness or comforting a patient. Tens of thousands of patients are kept alive in a vegetative state, with very little or no chance of recovery. This increases the emotional and financial burden faced by family members. Indeed, it may be very difficult for an individual's family to determine the proper course of action, and this may cause them to experience guilt and remorse, especially when they are forced to make a decision regarding the discontinuation of life support.

It is therefore important for an individual to make his/her beliefs on these matters known. This can be accomplished through advance directives. Advance directives are legal documents representing the wishes of an individual in regard to medical treatment and procedures. If an individual becomes comatose or otherwise unresponsive due to terminal illness or deterioration, an advance directive will inform family and medical professionals of his/her wishes. Advance directives have various different uses. For example, an advance directive may indicate whether or not an individual wishes to be resuscitated in the event of respiratory or cardiac failure. These documents may also display his/her feelings about life support techniques, including the use feeding tubes, catheters, and pacemakers. If an individual does not wish to be kept on life support, this too can be stated in a living will. An advance directive will also provide an individual with the ability to appoint a health care proxy and a durable power of attorney. These authorities will be given the power to make decisions regarding an individual's health care in the event that he/she is unable to speak for himself/herself.

Establishing advance directives is the best method of ensuring that family members and medical authorities are aware of one's wishes regarding medical treatment. It is important for an individual to review his/her state laws regarding the use of an advance directive, as the governing rules and regulations vary a great deal by state. It is also important to understand that these are legally binding contracts. In most cases, the conditions that are outlined in an advance directive must be adhered to. Therefore, it is essential for an individual to thoroughly and completely consider everything included in these documents. If an individual fails to establish advance directives, a court may appoint a guardian to oversee his/her medical treatment and financial affairs, and to ensure that all decisions that are made are in the "best interests" of the patient, but this does not guarantee an individual's true wishes will be acknowledged.

NEXT: End of Life Care Overview

Related Articles

Link To This Page


Find an WA Lawyer
Guide to Finding a Lawyer


End of Life Care Overview End of Life Care Overview