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The importance of an advance healthcare directive

An advance healthcare directive is a legal document that outlines your wishes related to healthcare. Although having one is not a requirement, there are numerous benefits to having one on file.

There are four parts to an advance directive, and you can complete all or just some of the sections with as much, or as little, detail as desired.

Purpose of the advance directive

According to Healthline, having an advance directive for healthcare allows you to have a say in your own healthcare. It generally goes into effect if you are in a mental or physical incapacitated state in which you are unable to make your own decisions. Without one, family members or someone else will make the decisions, and they may not align with what you want.

Four parts of an advance healthcare directive

The State of California Department of Justice, Office of the Attorney General discusses that there are four parts to the advance directive. In the first part, you have the opportunity to name a health agent, also known as the power of attorney for healthcare. In the event you are unable to make your own healthcare decisions, this individual would make them for you. The form allows you to place limits as to what decisions he or she can make.

The second part allows you to outline specific instructions about all aspects of your healthcare. This includes hospital preferences, a do not resuscitate order, receiving hydration or nutrition via IV or tube feeding, ventilator use and use of pain relief or other measures for comfort.

Part three of the form allows you to designate the donation of your tissues, organs or body. In part four, you can name a primary physician to be in charge of your healthcare.

Without a POA, the healthcare team will follow the instructions outlined on the form. If there is a POA, this individual must follow the form’s instructions and can make additional decisions not outlined on the form.

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