Advance Directives: What You and Your Family Should Know
Healthcare advances in recent years have led to technologies such as artificial respiration, nutrition and hydration that have the ability to sustain or extend life. As a result, you may be concerned about the kind of medical care you will receive if you should become terminally ill and unable to communicate. You may not want to spend months or years dependent on life support machines, and you may not want to cause unnecessary emotional or financial distress for your loved ones.
A growing number of people are executing legal documents called advance directives as a way of telling their families and doctors how they want to be treated should they become seriously ill. An advance directive is a document in which you provide specific direction to your physician, healthcare facility and loved ones about the healthcare you may need some day. Advance directives may also appoint an agent or surrogate to make healthcare decisions for you, if you are unable to do so yourself.
Things to Consider Prior to Executing an Advance Directive
We encourage you to do two things if you are considering whether and/or what type of advance directive you want to execute:
- Communicate openly with your loved ones, clergy and attorney.
- Plan ahead.
Preparation of an advance directive should be done while you are still healthy and capable of making informed and rational decisions. Take the time to consult loved ones and clergy to make sure that you consider all of the emotional and spiritual factors that may be a part of your decision-making process. The chances of misunderstanding and potential conflict with family members may also be decreased through open communication and involvement of loves ones. Planning ahead will ultimately ensure that your advance directive accurately reflects your wishes.
It is important to discuss the legal implications and effects of advance directives with your attorney prior to executing a directive. Your attorney will be able to help guide you through the different types of directives to ensure that you end up with a directive that fits your particular circumstances and accurately reflects your wishes. Perhaps, most importantly, your attorney will ensure that an advance directive is properly drafted and executed so that you have a legally valid and binding document.
Remember, at all times that you are competent, you retain the right to determine the healthcare you receive. The agent you appoint to act on your behalf in a power of attorney for healthcare can never override your power to make decisions for yourself as long as you are able and willing to do so. You may also revoke a power of attorney for healthcare at any time you are competent to do so.
Advance Healthcare Directive Booklets and Forms
The Wyoming Health Care Decisions Act includes a form entitled the Advance Health Care Directive that can be used to create an advance directive. You can access this form by clicking here.
It’s About How You LIVE is a national community engagement campaign encouraging individuals to make informed decisions about end-of-life care and services. The campaign encourages people to:
- Learn about options for end-of-life services and care
- Implement plans to ensure wishes are honored
- Voice decisions to family, friends and healthcare providers
- Engage in personal or community efforts to improve end-of-life care
Note: An advance healthcare directive is not a substitute for legal advice. Changes in the underlying law can affect how the form will operate in the event you lose the ability to make decisions for yourself. If you have any questions about how the form will help ensure your wishes are carried out, or if your wishes do not seem to fit with the form, you may wish to talk to your healthcare provider and an attorney with experience in drafting advance directives.