It is often difficult for people to think about the care and treatment they want in the event they are incapable of making their own healthcare decisions. You may unexpectedly be in a position where you cannot speak for yourself - such as an accident or severe illness - and be unable to make or communicate your treatment decisions. If this happens, you want to be assured that the decisions made match your values and wishes. You can define in advance what medical treatment you prefer.
An Advance Health Care Directive (AHCD) form lets you say what you want and who you want to speak for you. An AHCD allows you to appoint an agent who has power of attorney to make care and treatment decisions on your behalf, and give instructions about your healthcare wishes.
As you prepare your advance directive, you'll need to follow these four important steps:
- Get the living will and medical power of attorney forms for your state, or use a universal form that has been approved by many states. In general, doctors will respect your wishes even if you have a form from a different state. The California form can be downloaded, below.
- Choose your healthcare agent. This should be a person you trust to make decisions for you.
- Fill out the forms and have them witnessed, as your state requires.
- Give copies to your family, your doctor and your healthcare agent.