Advance Directives

Question:  What are advance directives?

Answer:  Advance directives typically refers to three documents, a durable power of attorney, a designation of health care surrogate, and a living will. These documents are important in the event of incapacitation or incompetence, to ensure that your financial obligations continue to be met, and that your wishes be honored with regard to medical treatment. Further, a living will removes the responsibility from your loved ones of deciding whether to take or remove artificial life prolonging measures.

Question:  What is a durable power of attorney?

Answer:  A durable power of attorney is a document formally executed by a person (the principal) that gives another person (the agent or attorney-in-fact) the power to sign documents, manage finances, and essentially act in that person’s place and  stead. Unless a power of attorney is a durable power of attorney, the power given to the agent ceases upon the principal’s incapacitation or death. A durable power of attorney survives incapacitation, but ceases upon death.

Question:  What is a health care surrogate?

 Answer:  A health care surrogate is a person who has been named in a formally executed document usually called a designation of health care surrogate. The health care surrogate has the authority to make health care decisions for the designator (the person who executed the designation of health care surrogate) in the event the designator is unable to make his or her own health care decisions. 

Question: What is a living will?

Answer:  A living will is a formally executed document stating whether or not the declarant (the person who executed the living will) wishes for his or her life to be artificially prolonged in the event that he or she is 1) incapacitated and 2) has a terminal or end-stage condition, or is in a persistent vegetative state, and 3) his or her doctors determine that there is no reasonable medical probability of recovery.