Why do I need an ‘Advanced Directive’?

I hear this question a lot. Along with the question ‘What happens to my basic directive when I get an advanced directive?’ or “I didn’t even know I had a basic directive!”  Even I had some trouble with the terminology when I first heard it (before I became a lawyer). Then I looked more closely.

It isn’t an ‘advanced’ directive, it is an ‘advance’ directive. That’s right, ‘advance’ as in ‘before’. And just like you plan what to pack in advance of your vacation, you should plan what sorts of medical treatment you would want before you need it. After all, there is a good chance that when the time comes, you won’t be able to tell people yourself.

If you are on life support, you won’t be able to tell the doctor whether or not you want to be kept alive with machines doing all the work. You won’t be able to tell the doctor whether or not you want to be fed through a feeding tube when there is no chance of you ever waking up. And you won’t be able to tell the doctor that you want pain killers, even if that means that you might die a little sooner.

That’s what the ‘advance directive’ is all about.

Remember that case in Florida where the woman’s husband and her parents went to court fighting over whether or not she should be kept alive by mechanical means, even after her brain function had totally stopped? The people who loved her the most spent a lot of time (and a lot of money) fighting over what she would have wanted.

It would have been much easier on everyone if she had written an ‘advance directive’ to let people know what she really wanted.

It’s a nice thing to do for our loved ones. If we are in the position to need this directive, the people we love are probably already in a very emotional state. And that’s not a good time to have to make these decisions.

It is much better to make these decisions before the time comes. In Advance of when the decision is needed.

That way, you can be sure that everyone understands your wishes. There is no problem with how one person thought you might want to proceed, because you are telling them what you want. You are making sure that your wishes are heard.

Yes, I think everyone should have an advance directive to tell the people we love how we want them to proceed. It is so much easier for them to follow our wishes when we have taken the time and effort to make sure those wishes are in writing.

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