05/03/2012

5 Myths About Advance Health Care Directives

I talk to a lot of individuals who believe that an Advance Health Care Directive is only needed by “old people”.   However, the reality is that everyone over the age of 18 should have an Advance Health Care Directive.  Life is unpredictable and we never know when disaster will strike.  If an unexpected event occurs, it is crucial to have a decision maker in place and make your wishes known.

The second myth is that an individual should wait until he or she is sure what they want before signing an Advance Health Care Directive.  Not putting anything in place is not wise.  The discussions should take place now and agent selections should be made.  The document can always be changed is your wishes and/or circumstances change.

The third myth is that you have to have an Advance Health Care Directive to stop treatment near the end of life.  Treatment can cease without an Advance Health Care Directive; however, everyone involved must agree.  This is where the difficulty arises because it is unlikely that everyone involved will agree to a particular course of treatment.

The fourth myth is that if I have an Advance Health Care Directive then I do not want to be treated at all.  An Advance Health Care Directive expresses what medical treatments you want and do not want.  If you do not want treatment to cure you, you can always insert instructions that you want treatments to keep you reasonably free from pain.

The fifth myth is that if I name a health care agent then I lose all right to make my medical decisions.  Unless specified, the Advance Health Care Directive only takes effect if and when you become incapacitated.