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When You Can't Make Your Own Medical Decisions, Who Will?

Decisions related to your health and medical care are highly personal and are typically made after consulting your physician and weighing the related pros and cons. Even under the best of circumstances, it can be difficult to decide whether the potential benefits of a certain surgical procedure or medication outweigh the inherent risks and possible side effects.

Consider what would happen if you were involved in a serious car accident or suffered a stroke. Who would make medical decisions for you when you are unable to do so? Advance planning, including the preparation of a health care directive and a medical power of attorney, can help you to be prepared for these types of situations.

What Is An Advance Health Care Directive?

By preparing a living will or health care directive, you can explicitly express your wishes with regard to the types of medical procedures and care that you want or don't want if you are unable to communicate. A health care directive should be tailored to address and meet your specific concerns, needs and wishes, so it is wise to consider and include specific instructions that address the following:

•· Resuscitation: What, if any, measures should and should not be taken in the event your heart stops beating?

•· Life sustaining measures: Do you want to be incubated and put on a ventilator if you are unable to breathe or permit a feeding tube if you cannot eat or drink on your own?

•· Administration of medications: What, if any, types of prescription medications should be administered to fight infections or to treat pain?

•· Organ / tissue donation: In the event of death, what are your wishes with regard to organ and tissue donation?

Designating A Health Care Agent

In addition to expressing your wishes with regard to medical procedures and care in a health care directive, it is also important to designate a health care agent who can make decisions and act as an advocate on your behalf. When selecting a health care agent, it is wise to choose someone with whom you feel comfortable communicating your wishes and who you trust to carry out your wishes, regardless of how difficult it may be.

When it comes to drafting a health care directive and selecting a health care agent, an estate planning attorney can answer your questions and provide options and advice as well as prepare the document according to your wishes.

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