I’ve worked for a group of surgeons for over thirteen years, and the question that comes up time, and time again for our preoperative patients, is “do you have an Advanced Directive?” We get a lot of folks who brush it under the rug because aren’t they for old people? Others find it morbid, and many just don’t want to go there. The fact is, this document is not only important to your medical provider, but it protects you, and allows you to dictate your medical treatment should you be unable to do so.
The most commonly known Advanced Directives are Durable Power of Attorney and a Living Will. Durable Power of Attorney allows you to designate someone (sometimes called an agent), to carry out your wishes on your behalf. This person essentially takes over for you if you’re incapable of speaking for yourself. A Living Will is different than that which is used to leave an estate, or inheritance to someone. It directs end-of-life medical care such as whether or not to use life support measures like feeding tubes or being resuscitated.
A common misconception of an Advanced Directive is you have to be older to need one of these. Anyone can and really should consider an Advanced Directive. Facing major surgery, an illness or an accident is an emotionally wrought time for everyone, and worrying about crossing your T’s and dotting your I’s is the last thing you or your loved ones want to deal with. Planning ahead, and making informed decisions now is peace of mind, and having your wishes put in writing takes the guesswork out of knowing what to do if something were to happen. Check with your state for information on how to prepare these forms and the legal guidelines. Distribute copies to your attorney, family members or anyone else you feel should have access to this information.
Expect the unexpected. No one wants to think about not being able to advocate for themselves, but life happens. The best person to take charge of your medical care is you, and it’s never too soon to plan for the future.