Advanced Health Care Directives

Advanced Care Directives 

 The term "advance directives" refers to treatment preferences and the designation of a proxy decision-maker(s) in the event that an individual becomes unable to make medical decisions on their own behalf. It is often recommended that no matter what type of Advance directive you decide to move toward, that you plan them out with your loved ones and health care providers.  Pre-planning can bring peace of mind to the whole family when a family member’s wishes are known before making decisions is necessary.  We also recommend discussing these wishes with all members of a family so there are no surprises when the time comes for medical decisions to be implemented. At Boehmer Law, our St. Charles attorneys can help you walk through this process and explain what types of directives will help meet your needs and desires. 

Living Will

This is a written document that specifies what types of medical treatment are desired should the individual become incapacitated. A living will can be general or very specific. The most common statement in a living will is worded something like this:

“if I suffer an incurable, irreversible illness, disease, or condition and my attending physician(s) determines
 that my condition is terminal, I direct that life-sustaining measures that would serve only to prolong
 my dying be withheld or discontinued.”

More specific living wills may include information regarding an individual's desire for such medical or religious choices such as:
• pain relieving drugs/medications
• antibiotics
• artificial hydration (IV fluids)
• artificial feeding (feeding tube)
• CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation)
• life-support equipment including ventilators (breathing machines)
• do not resuscitate (DNR) 
• Last Rites or Special Prayers

It is not uncommon for someone to address one or multiple parameters on a living will. It is important to have a signed copy of this document with you if you have a hospitalization or surgery, especially if you have a planned medical procedure so the hospital knows your wishes. They will often ask you about this when you are admitted to the hospital. We also recommend that each of your physicians have a copy as well. This document can be updated or modified as you age or other life circumstances change.

Health-care proxy

This is a legal document in which an individual designates another person to make health-care decisions on their behalf if they are rendered incapable of making their wishes known. The health-care proxy has the same rights to request or refuse treatment that the individual would have if capable of making and communicating decisions.

Why are advance directives important?

Advance directives came about as a result of concerns of patients undergoing unwanted medical treatments and procedures in effort to preserve life at any cost. They also came about to make sure that someone’s end of life wishes could be met and communicated to family members and health care providers.  

From a practical standpoint, medical directives and living wills simplify a person's medical care and decision making in situations when they are temporarily or permanently unable make or verbalize their choices. This allows for a patient to maintain their independence and dignity while choosing medical care based on their own preferences regardless of mental or physical capacity and lighten the load of health care professionals and family members.

Instructive advanced directives are done while a person is in a sound decision-making capacity. The directives are only put into effect when a person loses his/her decision-making capacity (mentally or medically incapacitated). While a person maintains ability to make decisions, he/she is the ultimate decision-maker rather than the health-care proxy or surrogate decision-maker.


Some common situations where these directives can help with the decision-making process are:

• coma

• stroke 

• persistent vegetative state

• severe brain injury 

• advanced Alzheimer's disease or other forms of dementia

• critical medical illness affecting mental capacity

• traumatic accident

At Boehmer Law, our estate planning attorneys, understand that having the discussions and taking these actions can seem unnecessary; especially if you are young, healthy, or feel that your loved ones already know what you want. However, when emergency situations arise, you want to make sure that no matter where you are or who you are with—your choices are respected and followed.

All of our initial consultations are free  and at Boehmer Law, our wills and estates attorneys are ready to help you get the peace of mind that your wishes will be followed when the time comes. 

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