Some individuals may assume that a living will only authorizes an agent to act on their behalf during a medical emergency. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes how the document may detail an individual’s preferences concerning life-sustaining procedures.
A living will specifies whether to initiate or waive life-sustaining treatments. Health care providers refer to their patients’ living wills during life-threatening medical circumstances. The document outlines the patient’s choices regarding the treatment they wish to receive.
Advanced health care directives may contain additional information
Living wills generally reflect preferences for life-sustaining treatments. The American Bar Association notes that an advanced health care directive may include expanded details. The document allows an individual to specify preferred treatments for non-critical conditions.
Health care directives may also name a proxy or surrogate. The individual named may then discuss a patient’s treatment preferences with medical professionals. The health care proxy could, for example, speak with a surgeon and communicate an incapacitated patient’s wishes for post-surgical pain management.
Legal documents could outline end-of-life preferences
An advanced health care directive could offer a family a degree of comfort during a loved one’s terminal illness. Physicians may find it easier to discuss end-of-life treatments with an authorized proxy. Anxious family members could find it difficult to discuss their loved one’s wishes during an end-of-life crisis.
As noted by the California Attorney General’s website, only 25% of Americans die at home. Most individuals spend their last days in an institution. Family members may face a range of difficult decisions during end-of-life situations. Advanced health care directives and proxy agents could help reduce the emotional hardship placed on a loved one’s family.