Health Care Directives and Proxies

What happens to you in the case of a serious accident or illness?

Advance Medical Directives and Medical Proxies

Advance Medical Directives and Proxies detail your preferences regarding medical treatment and care if you’re faced with an illness or serious accident. These legal documents speak for you when you’re not able to speak for yourself — for instance, if you are in a coma.

Developments in health care technology make possible many alternatives for treating medical conditions, causing unnatural prolongation of life. By properly drafting an Advance Medical Directive you specify your clear legal choice to accept or reject health care even if rejecting health care will hasten death.  By specifying your choice you will be spared unwanted procedures and you will be permitted to die with the dignity you choose.   (U.C.A. § 75-2a-102).

You also have the right to designate a Health Care Agent. This document is commonly referred to as a “Health Care Proxy”.   Under the authority you grant through a “Heath Care Proxy” the Health Care Agent you appoint will express your preferences for health care options and direct your health care when you can’t. Your Health Care Agent has this power only when you lose your ability to make or communicate health care decision including decisions about end-of-life care. (U.C.A. § 75-2a-102).

Because unexpected situations can happen at any age, everyone 18 years of age and older should have both an Advance Health Care Directive and Health Care Proxy.

Having your medical preferences and directions in written instructions will help reduce confusion or disagreement among family members and medical professionals.

Advance Directives include:

  • Health Care Directive. This written, legal document, sometimes called a Living Will, spells out the types of medical treatments and life-sustaining measures you want and don’t want, such as mechanical breathing (respiration and ventilation), tube feeding or resuscitation.
  • Health Care Proxy. This medical Power of Attorney is a legal document that designates an individual — referred to as your health care agent or proxy — to make medical decisions for you in the event that you’re unable to do so. However, it is different from a power of attorney authorizing someone to make financial transactions for you.
  • Do not resuscitate (DNR) order. This is a request to not have cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) if your heart stops or if you stop breathing. Advance directives do not have to include a DNR order, and you don’t have to have an advance directive to have a DNR order. Your doctor can put a DNR order in your medical chart


Questions and Answers about Living Will and Health Care Directives in Utah.

Do I need a Health Care Directive and a Health Care Proxy?

Health Care Directive can’t cover every possible situation. Therefore, you should also have a Health Care Proxy to designate someone to be your health care agent. This person will be guided by your Health Care Directive but has the authority to interpret your wishes in situations that aren’t described in your Directive. A Health Proxy is also a good idea if your family is opposed to some of your wishes or is divided about them. Advance Directives and Proxies aren’t just for older adults. Unexpected end-of-life situations can happen at any age, so it’s important for all adults to have Advance Directives and Proxies.

How do I choose a health care agent?

Choosing a person to act as your health care agent is possibly the most important part of your planning. You need to trust that this person has your interests at heart, understands your wishes and will act accordingly. He or she should also be mature and levelheaded, and comfortable with candid conversations. Don’t pick someone out of feelings of guilt or obligation.

Your health care agent doesn’t necessarily have to be a family member. You may want your health care decision maker to be different from the person you choose to handle your financial matters. It may be helpful, but it’s not necessary, if the person lives in the same city or state as you do.

What treatments should I choose?

In determining your wishes, think about your values, such as the importance to you of being independent and self-sufficient, and what you feel would make your life not worth living. Would you want treatment to extend life in any situation? Would you want treatment only if a cure is possible? Would you want palliative care to ease pain and discomfort if you were terminally ill?

Although you can’t predict what medical situations will arise, be sure to discuss the following treatments. It may help to talk with your doctor about these, especially if you have questions.

  • Resuscitation. Restarts the heart when it has stopped beating (cardiac death). Determine if and when you would want to be resuscitated by cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) or by a device that delivers an electric shock to stimulate the heart.
  • Mechanical ventilation. Takes over your breathing if you’re unable to do so. Consider if, when and for how long you would want to be placed on a mechanical ventilator.
  • Nutritional and hydration assistance. Supplies the body with nutrients and fluids intravenously or via a tube in the stomach. Decide if, when and for how long you would want to be fed in this manner.
  • Dialysis. Removes waste from your blood and manages fluid levels if your kidneys no longer function. Determine if, when and for how long you would want to receive this treatmen
What about organ donations?

You can also specify in your advance directives any wishes you have about donating your organs, eyes and tissues for transplantation or your body for scientific study. If you wish to donate your body for scientific study, contact the medical school closest to your home for details.

  • Share your wishes with your family
  • Injury, illness and death aren’t easy subjects to talk about, but by planning ahead you can ensure that you receive the type of medical care you want. You also relieve your family of the burden of trying to guess what you’d want done. Be sure to discuss your wishes with your loved ones. Let them know you’re creating advance directives and explain your feelings about medical care and what you’d want done in specific instances.
  • Fill out the forms for your state
Who should have a copy of my documents?

Your advance directives should be in writing. Each state has its own laws regarding advance directives. You will want to consult an attorney about this process. They are aware of the State-specific forms that are needed.  Once the documents have been properly prepared, give copies to your doctor, the person you’ve chosen as your health care agent and your family members. Keep another copy in a safe but accessible place. You might also want to keep a card in your wallet that says you have a living will and where it can be found

How often should I review my Directives

Review your advance directives from time to time . As your health changes or your perspective on life changes, you might reconsider some of your advance directives. Read over your advance directives from time to time to see if you want to revise any of the instructions. You can change your mind about your advance directives at any time.

To revise your advance directives, you follow the same steps you used to create them. Get new advance directive forms to fill out. Discuss your changes with your friends, family and doctor. Then distribute copies of the new advance directives and ask everyone to destroy the earlier version.

If there isn’t time to redo the paperwork, you can always cancel your advance directive by telling your doctor and your family. Remember, a living will or medical POA goes into effect only if you

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