We all have the right to determine what type of health care we want to receive or not receive. Sometimes, however, due to injury, illness, or simply the aging process, we run the risk of our healthcare wishes not being honored because we have not adequately communicated them and memorialized them in legal documents prior to incapacitation. Thus, our loved ones are not prepared to honor the wishes they don’t know about. Through establishing advance health care directives, you can help ensure that your health care preferences are honored even in the event that you are unable to effectively communicate them for yourself. They also allow you to select trusted individuals who understand you and your preferences to make healthcare decisions on your behalf should you ever be incapacitated. Here is what you can and should include in your advance health care directives.
What to Include in Your Advance Health Care Directives
For starters, your advance health care directives should name the person you want to serve as your health care surrogate. Your health care surrogate is also sometimes referred to as your “health care agent.” They will be empowered to make critical health care decisions on your behalf should you be in a state of incapacitation and unable to communicate your health care decisions for yourself. This means that your health care surrogate will have the authority to make decisions regarding the initiation or continuation of certain treatment. It also means they can decide who treats you and what type of treatment should be withheld. Of course, all of this is to say that the decision about who to select as your health care surrogate is an important one and not one to be taken lightly. Choose someone who understands your healthcare preferences and priority and whom you trust to advocate on your behalf.
It can also be instructive to include details about your health care preferences in your advance health care directive. Of course, you should have a number of conversations with your health care surrogate on these topics to help ensure they have a deeper understanding of your wishes, but setting forth specifics in your advance health care directives can be helpful as well. In doing so, however, you want to walk a careful balance between providing guidance to your healthcare surrogate, but also allowing them some flexibility so that they are not restricted in acting in your best interest.
In your advance health care directive, be sure to include the name and contact information for your health care surrogate. Some advance directives will also pose specific questions that have been answered by the principle to instruct their agent should the need arise. Specific questions may address any types of treatment you would absolutely want to receive or not want to receive under certain circumstances. If you have some very specific healthcare treatment preferences, it would be best for you to put these wishes explicitly in writing.