Advance Directives: Commonly Asked Questions
What do I do with my completed Advanced Directive forms?
Make certain you have signed your original document along with your other important legal papers and put them where your Health Care Power of Attorney has access to them. To be safe take a copy when you go to the hospital for any stay. Give a copy to your primary doctor and most of all, discuss with your family and give them a copy.
When should I prepare an Advance Directive?
The sooner, the better for all persons over the age of 18 years. Most controversial court cases have involved a young person following an accident leaving the person unable to speak for themselves and loved ones fighting over discontinuing or continuing life support.
How should I choose by Health Care Power of Attorney?
This is an important decision to make. You need to choose someone that is accessible, preferably lives with you or close to you. It is very difficult for someone to make decisions for you by phone. You need to choose someone that you know will honor your wishes and stand up for you when confronted by others that don't agree with your choice. Some individuals prefer a family member or a close friend. In either case be sure to discuss your choice with others that will be involoved to avoid conflict or misunderstandings. You can change your choice at any time but you should complete another document and date it.
Why would I not want a feeding tube with artificial feedings at the end when I can no longer eat? Wouldn't I "starve to death"?
A feeding tube is a small tube placed through the nose or directly into the stomach. Putting the tube into the stomach is a surgical procedure. Feeding tubes can be a great benefit for someone that has lost the ability to eat or has lost their appetite because of a surgical procedure or cancer treatments. They are a positive intervention when the hope is for recovery. People who are at the end of life stop eating and drinking because the dying body no longer has a need for food or drink. People who are unconscious, in a vegetative state or who have end-stage dementia lose feelings of thirst or hunger. Research shows that feedings through a tube may prolong dying and make it more uncomfortable. The same can be said for giving IV fluids to someone who is dying. Many times the added fluid puts a burden on a system that is shutting down and fluid backs into the tissue or lungs. If these interventions are in place you or your health care Power of Attorney have the right to talk with your physician and have them discontinued.