Questions about medical care at the end of life are very important today because of the ability of medical technology to prolong life and because of highly publicized court cases involving comatose or dying patients. The best way for you to be in control of your medical treatment is to record your preferences in advance. If you wish to have someone speak with you further about advance directives, please speak with your nurse, who will arrange it.
What are advance directives?
Advance directives are documents written in advance of a serious illness that state your choices about medical treatment or name someone to make choices about medical treatment for you, if you become unable to make decisions. Generally, you have the right to refuse any medical or surgical treatment you do not wish to receive. An advance directive helps ensure that your wishes are followed. It also helps alleviate the burden of decision making for you loved ones because your wishes have already been stated.
What does the Florida law say about this subject?
Florida has established a Living Will form and Designation of Care Surrogate form. These forms allows you to choose a person to make decisions for you if you are unable, state what treatments you may or may not want, and much more. You do not need a lawyer to fill out these forms and they do not need to be notarized. Click here to download the Florida Advance Directive for Health Care.
Are advance directives just for "senior" citizens?
No. A severe illness or serious accident can happen to a person at any age. If you have strong feelings about what choices you would want made in such a situation, you are encouraged to consider signing an advance directive.
Can an advance directive be changed?
These documents can be changed or revoked at any time in accordance with Georgia law. You have the right to verbally override your advance directive at any time provided you are of sound mind. If you do make changes to an advance directive, be sure to destroy all of the outdated copies and provide copies of the new version to your family, physician and attorney. If you wish to revoke an advance directive while receiving treatment, simply notify your primary physician or nurse in the presence of witnesses.
Will an advance directive be honored in an emergency?
Usually, it is impossible to determine the chances of survival in an emergency situation or to determine the outlook for recovery. After the initial emergency has passed, and depending on your condition, your advance directive may come into play, if you are not able to express your wishes.
Is there a time limit on how long my advance directive is valid?
No, but you are encouraged to update any advance directive periodically since this indicates you have given the matter a great deal of thought.
Are there any limitations on carrying out the instructions in my directive if I am pregnant?
Yes. Most likely any instructions which would result in withholding or withdrawing life-sustaining treatments would not be honored once it is determined that the baby has developed enough to be able to survive, if delivered.
After I complete an advance directive, what do I do with it?
Copies of an advance directive should be given to someone who would know if you became seriously ill. You should also give a copy to your physician, and you may want to consider giving a copy to your minister, family members or close friends. Of course, if you appoint an agent to make health-care decisions for you, you should give a copy of your advance directive to the agent. Finally, you should consider carrying a card in your wallet stating that you have signed an advance directive and where it can be located.
Where can I get more information on Advance Directives?
Feel free to call Aging with Dignity at (888) 594-7437 or contact Florida Health Finder at (888) 419-3456 for additional information. They are available to answer your questions.
© 2012 Winter Park Family Health Center Inc.