Understanding Advance Health Care Directives

An advance health care directive is a legal and binding document that allows you to designate power of attorney to someone who can speak on your behalf should you be unable to do so. For instance, if you are involved in an accident that leaves you in a comatose state and cannot choose your own medical care, the AHCD will appoint a primary and a secondary power of attorney to people who can ensure that your medical wishes are honored.

The document will also allow you to appoint the physician you want to be your doctor and allow you to make your wishes known for organ donation and other end of life scenarios. It will allow you to set guidelines for pain control and generally all of your medical care and ensure that your wishes are carried out in the event that you can no longer speak for yourself.

In order for the document to be legal, you have to sign it in front of two witnesses. The witnesses can be family members, healthcare providers or the people that you choose for your power of attorneys. Distant relatives and friends are not permitted to witness the document. It must be immediate family members in order for it to be completely legal and binding. Note that different states may have different guidelines to follow when drafting an advance health care directive so you should check the regulations in your state to ensure that you are following legal guidelines.

Once you have created the directive, you should keep it where you can easily access it when needed. It is recommended that both of your power of attorneys have a copy of the document as well as your physician. Understand that having an AHCD is not required. No state makes it mandatory to have this directive but federal law does require that hospitals ask all patients whether or not they have an AHCD upon admittance. Many hospitals have the forms available for you to fill out if you want to create the document and have not yet done so.

Anyone who is at least 18 years of age and is of sound mind can fill out an advance health care directive. The document is not solely for those who are terminally ill or otherwise incapable of taking care of themselves. Once you have decided to craft the document, it may be a good idea to speak with an attorney to ensure that it is done properly and that it will be legally recognized. You can also speak with your attorney about your last will and testament and other issues involving your estate so that you know your final wishes will be carried out as planned.

Note that all states are different and while most states will recognize the AHCD from another, it may be a good idea to ensure that your directive will be honored in the event you are hospitalized in a state besides your home state. Speaking with an attorney will help you to plan for such instances and ensure that you have everything covered legally just in case the issue ever arises.

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