Expect the Unexpected
Planning ahead with Advance Directives
Recent national attention has prompted a dramatic increase in awareness on the subject of Advance Directives. According to Kathy Whittaker, manager of AAMC Patient Advocacy, the period between January and March of this year saw a tenfold increase in the downloads of Advance Directive forms from AAMC’s web site. The increase in awareness, however, has not always led to a clearer understanding of the terminology and many issues involved.
An Advance Directive has three components:
Here are the basic things you need to understand before making decisions about Advance Directive arrangements. An Advance Directive has three components: an Appointment of Health Care Agent, a Living Will, and optional Health Care Instructions. The AAMC Advance Directives information packet contains each of the three forms.
The Appointment of Health Care Agent allows you to designate the person you choose to make medical decisions on your behalf. This person assumes the decision-making role at the point where two physicians determine and agree that you can no longer make your own decisions.
A Living Will gives you a list of choices concerning what courses of action you want or do not want to be taken if you reach a terminal condition or a persistent vegetative state. The third (optional) component is called Health Care Instructions. This is another form that gives you a range of choices specifying instrucations for your care. The choices hinge on whether your condition is terminal, or you are in a persistent vegetative state, or another eventuality called end-stage condition.
Of course, knowing more about what these terms mean is one of many factors to consider when making decisions about Advance Directives. You can download the forms from the AAMC web site at www.askAAMC.org/about/advocacy.php. Spanish versions are also available. Or, call the Advance Directive Request Line at 443-481-3363.
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