In Pennsylvania, you have the right to make important medical decisions regarding end-of-life medical treatment. What happens when you are incapacitated and unable to communicate your medical preferences? Creating advance healthcare directives allows you to prepare to address your wishes before a medical emergency. The purpose of an advance directive is to maintain control over your end-of-life medical choices.
Contact a Pittsburgh Advance Health Directive Attorney
If you would like to learn about creating an advance healthcare directive in Pittsburgh, the attorneys at Jones Gregg Creehan & Gerace are here to help. Our empathetic attorneys will guide you throughout the process of creating an advance healthcare directive to protect yourself and help your healthcare agent make the best decision possible on your behalf. Contact Jones Gregg Creehan & Gerace today to schedule your initial consultation.
What Is an Advance Healthcare Directive or Living Will?
An advance healthcare directive also called a living will, is a legal document that states your preferences for medical treatment if you’re incapable of communicating your wishes. In your advance healthcare directive, you will appoint a person you trust to be your healthcare agent. Your healthcare agent will have the right to make medical decisions on your behalf, but only if you are incapacitated and unable to communicate your wishes.
Advance healthcare directives are legally enforceable when you have created a living will, and your medical care provider has a copy of the document. Additionally, your treating doctor must confirm that you are “incapacitated, in an end-stage medical condition or permanently unconscious, such as in a persistent vegetative state.”
How a Pittsburgh Advance Healthcare Directive Can Help You and Your Loved Ones
Some medical situations present patients with complex options in terms of treatment. In a state of permanent unconsciousness, you will not have a way to express which options you’d prefer. Without an advance healthcare directive, your loved ones will need to attempt to guess what decision you’d make. Without knowing your explicit preferences, they may choose an option you wouldn’t have chosen. Making medical decisions for someone else can be overwhelming, especially during a medical emergency.
Creating an advance directive will make your loved one’s job easier by indicating your preferences ahead of time. Advance healthcare directives are important legal tools that serve as a safety net for individuals who want to maintain control over their healthcare.
What Does a Health Care Agent Do?
When creating an advance directive, you will appoint a health care agent. The agent will be able to appoint you to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are found to be incapacitated. You can allow your health care agent’s authority to begin immediately. Alternatively, you can state that your agent’s authority only begins after your doctor determines that you cannot make your own decisions.
Health care agents are legally obligated to make medical decisions on your behalf. Your agent must make decisions based on your wishes, including your moral and religious beliefs. Health care agents must make decisions based on their best interest, not their best interest. Providing explicit instructions as to what treatments you would or wouldn’t like will help your health care agent comply with your wishes, for example:
- Whether CPR should be used to restart your breathing and heartbeat
- Decisions regarding withdrawing life-sustaining treatment
- Decisions regarding whether to perform risky surgeries or not
- Decisions regarding intubation and placing the patient on a ventilator
What Is a Pennsylvania Order for Life-Sustaining Treatment?
A Pennsylvania Order for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) is a legal document that gives patients more control over their end-of-life care. The document specifies what types of medical treatment the patient wishes to receive or avoid in an emergency or end-of-life situation. Completing a Pennsylvania Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) is only one step in the process of protecting your right to make decisions about end-of-life treatment.
It’s important that you use this form as part of a thorough estate plan that includes an advance directive and other aspects of advance care planning. An experienced attorney can ensure that you have all the legally valid and enforceable documents you need to fulfill your wishes.
Creating an Advance Healthcare Directive
Your advance directive won’t be legally enforceable unless you have signed it or someone with legal authority to do so signs the document at your direction. You will need to sign the directive in the presence of two adult witnesses who also need to sign the directive. The witness cannot be a person who signed the living will for you. For example, if your power of attorney signed the document on your behalf because you couldn’t, that person cannot be one of the witnesses who signs the directive.
Some elements of an advance healthcare directive are optional, such as naming an alternative health care agent or providing specific instructions for your agent. However, all directives must include certain elements, including your name, your health care agent’s name, and the statement that you give your agent the authority to make medical decisions for you should be incapacitated.
Modifying an Advance Healthcare Directive
You do have the authority to revoke your advance healthcare directive at any time. Revoking the advance healthcare directive requires you to inform your health care provider that you don’t want to use the document. If you’d like to revoke the advance healthcare directive, you should do so as soon as possible. Once incapacitated, you won’t be able to relay your further wishes.
Discuss Your Advance Directive With an Experienced Pittsburgh Attorney
Many Pittsburgh residents assume they can prepare their advance directives without realizing the legal and procedural requirements involved. An improperly executive advance directive can be invalid and ineffective in protecting your wishes. The knowledgeable estate planning attorneys at Jones Gregg Creehan & Gerace can ensure that your advance healthcare directive is completed in a way that’s legally valid. We can also help you understand all of your options and answer your questions. Contact Jones Gregg Creehan & Gerace today to schedule your initial consultation.