For aging residents of New York, preparing for the future doesn’t always just mean planning for future generations. Beyond wills, trusts and beneficiaries, one oft-overlooked aspect of elder care planning is that of an advance health care directive. What, exactly, is this official document and why is it so important?
An advance health care directive is also known as a living will. It’s a legal document that outlines wishes for medical treatment in case a time comes when the person does not have the ability to make such decisions for him or herself. It also names a trusted individual to make medical decisions on the other’s behalf in the event that he or she cannot express these wishes due to a physical or mental condition.
Without an advance health care directive, medical providers are required to provide any and all artificial life-prolonging treatments, potentially sustaining a comatose individual for days, months or even years, regardless of whether the person would have wanted this. However, if the person has a living will, a treating physician can implement advance directives after his or her condition has been fully evaluated. Living wills allow individuals to approve or decline certain types of health care in the event of a terminal illness or injury. They can stipulate a refusal of medical treatments that only serve to postpone death, such as artificial life support.
While no one would claim preparing an advance health care directive is an enjoyable way to spend an afternoon, neither can anyone deny its importance. It benefits not only the individual and any health care providers involved, but alleviates a good deal of emotional and mental stress for loved ones as well. Because an advance health care directive becomes legally valid the moment it is signed in front of the required witnesses, it is highly advisable to prepare the document with the guidance of an experienced New York living will lawyer.
Source: ktvn.com, “Ask the Doctor: Advance Directives“, Kristen Remington, Aug. 28, 2017