Health Care Wishes: Make the Choice Yours

Many states have an Advance Health Care Directive, commonly known as an AHCD, that is available for you to complete, have notarized, and file with your medical records and attorney, as well as giving out to all your friends and family. A link to Oregon’s form is here; a link to an English form for California is here, and a Spanish form for Califormia ishere. I suggest ignoring those websites attempting to sell the form, since it can be obtained free and is relatively easy to complete..

Post copies around the house. Carry one in your wallet or purse. Keep one in the glove compartment of the car and motorcycle. If you belong to a gym or social club, present a copy there. If you attend a certain church regularly, ask your pastor if he or she is willing to accept a copy, in the event they are called on your behalf. If your decision is in conflict with church doctrine, you might choose to not make your decision public with church members.

Who should have an AHCD

If you are unable or unwilling to make health care decisions about yourself, and you are age 18 years or older, most state laws allow you to choose someone to make health care decisions on your behalf. Needless to say, the time to make this decision is when you are healthy, clear of mind, and able to assure yourself that the person you choose is comfortable with the duty, and will carry it out as you wish. Do not put this off until you can no longer choose.

Important aspects of AHCD

The AHCD is a legal document. You select your choices for health care options when you cannot express your preferences. It identifies your health care agent, the person you have chosen to work with others regarding your choices. You can also write the directive for organ donation, and the name, address, and phone number of your personal care physician, in the event you are away from home when incapacitated by an accident or illness. The AHCD eliminates stressful decisions often made by family members when no directive is in place. You will, through your directive and health care agent, be able to express your wishes about treatment, surviving under less than optimum quality of life, and how you want to spend your final days.

Answers to common questions about AHCD

  1. You do not need a lawyer to complete an AHCD. It is recommended that you file a notarized copy with your attorney.
  2. Select one person who will make certain that your wishes will be carried out. A close relative or best friend may be the best choice. The person should be trustworthy, understand your values, and agreeable to seeing your wishes carried out. This is not the time to be concerned with hurting anyone’s feelings; this is the time to decide who can stand up for what you decide.
  3. Name an alternative agent to act on your behalf, if the agent is no longer available or cannot make the health care decisions for you. Go over your choices and reasons with your agent and alternate agent, so they are more comfortable if called upon to carry out your wishes.
  4. You can limit the authority of your agent.
  5. Name specific people you do not want involved in making decisions for you. This can be for any reason, none of which have to be given. In addition, your health care agent cannot be the doctor managing your care, an operator or employee of a community or residential care facility where you are receiving care, or an employee of the place where you are receiving care, unless that person is related to you be blood, marriage, or adoption.
  6. Like any business, your agent represents your voice in the business of life decisions. Decisions such as change of doctor, where medical care is received (home or hospital), and types of medicine, tests, and medical treatment are part of the agent’s duties. In addition, they adhere to your decision about the disposition of your body and organs after you die.
  7. The status of agent does not mean financial responsibility has been accepted.

One of Benjamin Franklin’s most-quoted sayings is “The only things certain in life are death and taxes.” Since we cannot cheat death, please spare your family and friends from making a decision you do not want by having your wishes communicated in a notarized, filed ACHD.