What is an Advance Medical Directive?
An advance healthcare directive, also referred to as a living will, personal directive, medical directive, or advance decision, is a legal document in which you can specify what actions should be taken for your health care in the event you are unable to make them for yourself. A living will is one form of advance directive where you state instructions for medical treatment and end of life decisions. This is also where you authorize an agent, appointed by you, to make those decisions on your behalf if you are incapacitated.
How should I select and appoint an Agent?
The Agent is the person who is charged with making medical decisions on your behalf. This person must be over the age of 18 and should be someone you have a close relationship with. It is recommended you have discussion concerning your end of life desires. It is often a spouse, family member, life partner or close friend.
Our firm recommends you select an Alternate Agent in the event to original Agent is not available or is unable or unwilling to act on your behalf.
What should be in the Advance Medical Directive?
In addition to appointing your Agent, you should specify the type of treatments you want or do not want. You should include any end of life treatment you would want. Ideally your Agent would be familiar with the type of treatments you want continued or withheld. This document should give your Agent enough discretion to carry out your wishes without undue restrictions. Be very clear and concise in this portion.
How do I prepare an Advance Medical Directive?
Our firm can provide guidance on preparing this important document. Our documents conform with the requirements in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia. The Advanced Medical Directive must be executed in front of a notary to be valid. We prefer to have two, disinterested, witnesses available when you sign who will also sign the final document. Once completed, this document should be kept in a safe place. The Agent you appoint should know where it is stored in the event it needs to be produced. The Agent does not need to read it, but must know where it is kept. The original needs to be available in the event of emergency. Be advised that a bank safety deposit box is not recommended as your permission is needed to access the box.
When does the Advance Medical Directive take effect?
This document will take effect when your doctor and one other qualified physician, having personally examined you, and certifies in writing that you are incapacitated and unable to make medical decisions on your own. This certification is needed before any treatment is administered or withheld. It should be recertified every 180 days, while treatment is ongoing, if needed.
How is an Advance Medical Directive Nullified?
The Advanced Medical Directive can be revoked by written revocation, physically destroying the original or orally expressing your desire to revoke the directive. If you want to revoke this document, we recommend it be done in writing to be sure there are no ambiguities.
We recommended that everyone should have an Advance Medical Directive. It's a way to convey your wishes to family, friends and medical professionals. It is also the best way to avoid confusion and undue stress when medical decisions must be made. This is not just for older people. An accident can happen to anyone. You want to have an input on the treatments that will affect your future.
Mehalko & Moghul can help guide you through making these decisions and prepare a document that will carry out your wishes. We can also advise you on the need for a Last Will and Testament and a Durable Power of Attorney. These documents would form the basis of an estate plan.
For a case evaluation, call us at 571-295-5702 or contact us via email.