Over the next several weeks I will delve into the current advanced directives options available in a number of states. I am starting with advanced directives: An advanced directive is a legal document that allows a person to convey the end-of-life care that he or she desires ahead of time. (http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/advancedirectives.html) It is a channel for a person to have the opportunity to express their wishes prior to contracting a serious disease or being in a potentially fatal accident. The directives are formed in a clear, concise manner to avoid confusion amongst family members, doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals. (http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/advancedirectives.html) Advanced directives ease the process for every participant who deals with the end-of-life decisions.
There are a number of directives currently available. The living will, durable power of attorney, and do not resuscitate (‘DNR’) form are the three main types of directives. There are a number of alternatives directives, which are based and tailored from these three, and which possess many of the features of these three with subtle variations.
A living will is a form that signifies that one does not want life-prolonging treatment. It is a legal document that identifies the degree of treatment that a patient would prefer under a myriad of medical circumstances that can arise. (http://wings.buffalo.edu/bioethics/lwill.html) When quality of life questions persist it should be left to the patient to decide what procedures he would choose to administer.
Durable power of attorney allots power to an agent of the patient to make end-of-life decisions. The election comes into effect once the patient is no longer conscious or can no longer make decisions for himself. (http://atg.sd.gov/Seniors/EstatePlanning/PowerofAttorney.aspx) Durable power of attorney has all the features of the living will accompanied with an agent who can ensure the patient’s wishes are followed. This is another avenue to guarantee patient autonomy is being fulfilled.
The DNR form orders doctors not to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (‘CPR’) on a patient who is not conscious. This form informs doctors that patients do not want to be transferred to a hospital to be revived if they were to experience cardiac arrest. This is a route many patients elect when they are in the terminal stages of their lives.