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Health Care Proxies, Advanced Health Care Directives, And Living Wills

By Jeff Moore

Any competent adult has the right to accept and/or refuse any medical treatment. Nobody disputes that. Doctors are only allowed to tell patients the pros and cons of treatment, they can offer advice, they can not order a patient to accept treatment. Problems start when the adult can no longer communicate or is no longer considered mentally competent enough to make their own decisions. When this happens other people step in and try to decide what type of medical treatment the person would want for themselves.

Most of us like to believe that we will live long full lives and always be in complete control of our fate; sadly this is not always the case. People are injured in car accidents; freak falls, and have brains that are slipping further and further into oblivion as a direct result of mental illness. When this happens we loose control over the medical treatment that we always took for granted.
You don't have to loose control.

Health care proxies, advanced health care directives, and living wills are documents that are drafted before a patient looses their mental competency that clearly state what type of medical treatment the patient will accept in a given situation and what type of treatment they wont accept.

Doctors are required to work within the boundaries of advanced health care directives, living wills, and health care proxies.

An advanced health care directive is a document that is signed when the person is competent stating their health care desires.

One type of advanced health care directive people like to use is durable power of attorney for health care. A person with durable power of attorney is a person that has been named by the patient as having the right to make all medical decisions. This person is called a patient advocate. Any mentally competent person over the age of eighteen can be given power of attorney. Before you name someone as your patient advocate make sure they are comfortable with the responsibility they are being given. Make sure that they have a very firm understanding of your medical wishes and desires. A patient advocate can be a friend, spouse, family member, life partner, or lawyer; they should be someone that you can literally trust with your life. If you do not name a person as your patient advocate the responsibility will automatically go to your closest family member. A patient advocate can only act if you are unable to communicate for yourself.

A second popular type of advanced health care directive is a living will medical. A living will is a document where you state you health care wishes in writing. Living wills do not name a patient advocate.

Some people choose to combine living wills with durable power of attorney.

If you choose to write a living will you need to decide if you are willing to be hooked up to ventilators, if you want to be resuscitated if your heart stops, if you want life prolonging drugs, are there any types of surgeries you do not want to have performed on your body, if you are in a coma do you want to have a feeding tube inserted.

If you are in a coma and the doctors feel that you will never wake up do you want them to take any steps that will keep your body alive?

Living wills are where most people list the times they want to be resuscitated and the times they don't want to be resuscitated.

If you have a living will you should keep it somewhere safe that it can be easily found in a medical emergency. Some people keep them in their wallets or purses and others choose to register them in a national database.

About the Author: Jeff Moore writes articles for and

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