What is an advance directive?
Advance directives are forms that you fill out to describe the kinds of medical care you want to have if something happens to you and you can't speak for yourself. It allows you to name a person to make decisions for you if you're hurt or have a serious illness that keeps you from saying what you want and the kind of treatment you would want, it also addresses end of life decisions.
There are two main types of advance directives:
- A healthcare power of attorney lets you name a person to make treatment decisions for you when you can't speak for yourself. This person is called an agent or healthcare proxy.
- A living will tells your family and your doctor what kinds of treatment you want to receive as you near the end of your life and if you can no longer speak for yourself.
As long as you can still make your own decisions, your advance directive won't be used. You can stop or say "no" to treatment at any time.
How do you write an advance directive?
As you prepare your advance directive, you'll need to follow these four important steps:
- Get the living will and medical power of attorney forms for your state. Forms are different in each state, so be sure to get the right ones for where you live. We have attached the South Carolina Healthcare Power of Attorney form here.
- Choose your healthcare agent. This should be a person you trust to make decisions for you.
- Fill out the forms, and have them witnessed as your state requires.
- Give copies to your family, your doctor, and your healthcare agent.
When you write your advance directive, think about the kinds of treatments that you do or don't want to receive if you get seriously hurt or ill.
These are tough choices to make, but you don't have to make them alone. Take your time. Share your questions or concerns about what to include in your advance directive with your doctor and your loved ones.
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