Health Care Power of Attorney and Living Will (Advance Directive)

Depending on where you live, these documents may be called a living will and powers of attorney for health care, a living will, or an advance directive. Whether you are rich or poor, it is imperative that you name your trusted medical decision-maker. The person you name to make medical decisions for you is called your health care “agent.”

The health care durable power of attorney allows you to name a person to make medical decisions for you if you become incapacitated. When your healthcare agent is called upon, he or she is entitled to consult with health care providers for informed consent and to have access to appropriate clinical records.

It is important to discuss your wishes about future medical decisions, life support systems, and artificial nutrition and hydration with your healthcare agent. You need to inform them of the location of the original copy of your health care durable power of attorney, although Idaho residents also enjoy a health care registry provided by the Department of Health and Welfare, where you can upload a copy of your Health Care Power of Attorney and Living Will for access by medical personnel. You should also speak with your doctor and other health care providers about your wishes. Upon entering the hospital or other health care facility, you or your healthcare agent will need to provide copies of your health care durable power of attorney to the admissions staff, or indicate that your document is stored in the state registry..

The living will specifically limits the scope of treatment, including the withholding of tubes for food and water, if such treatment is futile and against your wishes. It limits the scope of medical treatment if you become comatose, suffer from a chronic terminal illness, or are in a persistent vegetative state. It is very important for you to speak with your doctor concerning your wishes regarding life-prolonging procedures.

If you are living in an assisted living facility or nursing home, you need to ask them about their policy in regard to living wills and do not resuscitate orders and plan accordingly.

If you have any reservations about family members (children, siblings, parents) fulfilling this role, you should act immediately. If you do not have close family members to fulfill this role, you should still designate your preferred person (neighbor, friend), rather than allowing the court to appoint a “professional” guardian.

Health care powers of attorney and living wills can be customized to include:

· Your religious beliefs (Jehovah Witness, LDS, Jewish, Catholic, etc.)

· Special provisions if you experience dementia

· How to address your agent if he or she objects to your direction to remove life support or tube feeding

· To supply human contact if you are dying

· Maximizing pain and anxiety relief

· Expressing your wishes regarding autopsy

· Compensating your health care agent

· Your desire for home care over an assisted living facility

· Naming an agent for your children

· Addressing your desire to receive alternative treatments such as acupuncture, chiropractic care, and massage

· Address whether life support or tube feeding provisions apply if you are pregnant

· These provisions are usually not included in standard advance directive forms, but if they are important to you, you should express your wishes in the written document and bind your trusted agent to carry out your wishes