Summary: An Advance Directive for Health Care, also known as a Living Will, is a document that memorializes your wishes concerning medical care if you are incapacitated, as well as your end of life wishes. You can also designate a health care agent in your Advance Directive. Siedentopf Law walks you through the different sections of the document in this two-part blog series.
This is Part 2 of a two-part series. If you missed Part 1, you can read it here: Navigating the Georgia Advance Directive for Health Care Part 1.
As I mentioned in Part 1 of this blog, it is incredibly important to have an advance directive for health care. Georgia has a statutory advance directive form; click HERE is the most current version. Feel free to print out the document and follow along with this blog.
This blog picks up with Part 2, Item 7 of the Georgia Advance Directive for Health Care form. This section deals with treatment preferences, and is formatted as a multiple choice question (with one of those choices broken down even further, into sub-parts). Item 7 is really the heart of the advanced directive, as it provides your doctors and your health care agent with directions as to your medical wishes. “If I am in any condition that I initialed in Item (6) above and I can no longer communicate my treatment preferences after reasonable and appropriate efforts have been made to communicate with me about my treatment preferences, then:”
Choice A: “Try to extend my life as long as possible, using all medications, machines, or other medical procedures that in reasonable medical judgment could keep me alive…” Choice A is a fairly straightforward option. Select this one if you want everything possible done to save you.
Choice B: “Allow my natural death to occur. I do not want any medications, machines, or other medical procedures that in reasonable medical judgment could keep me alive but cannot cure me…” This choice does not preclude medical care that can cure your disease, but will not allow anything beyond that. This option is for those who are comfortable with dying and do not want to spend a significant amount of time in hospitals, hooked up to machines. In other words, you are asking not to be put on a ventilator, or to receive nutrients/fluids if you cannot be fed by mouth. This choice does still allow for pain medication.
Choice C: “I do not want any medications, machines, or other medical procedures that in reasonable medical judgment could keep me alive but cannot cure me, except as follows…” If you initial Choice C, you are asking that your doctors only perform specific actions or procedures – beyond those treatments which may cure you. This section has four additional options. First is that you would like to receive nutrition by tube or other medical means if necessary. Second is that you want to receive fluids by tube or other medical means if necessary. Third is that you want doctors to put you on a ventilator if you need help breathing. Fourth is that you want doctors to do cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) on you if necessary. If you find yourself checking all four of these boxes, you may want to reconsider selecting Choice C, and instead choose Choice A for clarity. Otherwise, Choice C does provide more flexibility in directing doctors with specific instructions in what treatments you do want, and do not want.
Part Two, Item 8 allows you to provide an additional statement, in your own words. You are not required to write anything here if you do not want to; however, it is advisable to provide additional information about your personal or religious values, as well as your personal preferences regarding pain relief. Here is an example of the language my clients have used to express their medical wishes: “I do not want my life to be prolonged nor do I want life-sustaining or death-delaying treatment to be provided or continued if my agent believes the burdens of the treatment outweigh the expected benefits. I want my agent to consider the relief of suffering, the expense involved, and the quality as well as the possible extension of my life in making decisions concerning life-sustaining or death-delaying treatment.”
Part Two, Item 9 really only applies to women of childbearing age. This section specifies that the individual filling out this form understands that under Georgia law, any medical choices you specify will not be carried out if you are pregnant and your fetus is viable. In that situation, doctors will make all efforts to keep you alive, to allow the fetus the best possible chance of survival. Alternatively, if you are pregnant and your fetus is not viable, Item 9 provides the option that medical choices made on your advance directive will still be carried out.
Part Three of the Georgia Advance Directive for Health Care form addresses guardianship. You can leave this part of the form blank if you want, or, you can nominate someone as your guardian, if you should ever need one. Your guardian and your health care agent can be the same person – but they do not have to be. A judge has the final say on the issue of guardianship, so you will not be completely avoiding the court system, but he or she will take your written wishes into account.
Part Four is the section of the advance directive form that you sign. There is also an option to have the advance directive only effective from a certain date to another date. For most people, this is not the best option, but sometimes may be a good choice if there is a specific problem or medical procedure coming up in the near term.
When you sign your advance directive for health care, you will need two witnesses. The document does not have to be notarized. I advise my clients to make lots of copies of your advance directive, and make sure the forms are in all of your medical files, with all of your doctors, and on file at any hospitals you visit. After all, if your medical provider does not know your advance directive exists, then the document will not help you.
By now, you are probably aware that I am very passionate about the importance of advance directives for health care, and the need for every Georgian to have one. If you need assistance with your estate planning materials, I am more than happy to help. But please, do not let a lack of an attorney prevent you from having an advance directive in place. Its impact on you, and your family, could be massive.
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