What is an Advance Directive?

Medical Power of Attorney

A medical Power of Attorney is a legal document in which you appoint someone to manage your medical affairs. In Oregon, the medical Power of Attorney is known as the Advance Directive. The Advance Directive is a document that allows you to make it clear what you would like to happen with your medical care if you ever become so sick that you’re not able to speak for yourself.

Any competent adult or emancipated minor can have an advance directive. And the person who steps into your shoes to help you with your medical needs is called the Health Care Representative. You appoint someone you trust with your life and who has a good understanding of your wishes to work with your physicians. The person selecting the agent also should be sure that the person chosen is willing and able to serve in this role.

Many people think advance directives are only for the elderly. However, unexpected end-of-life situations can happen to anyone at any age. It’s important for everyone to prepare an advance directive.

An advance directive typically covers situations involving:

  • Resuscitation
  • Mechanical ventilation
  • Tube feeding
  • Comfort care
  • Organ and tissue donation
  • Donating your body for scientific reasons

Why Have an Advance Directive?

Most people will reach a point in life where they can no longer speak for themselves. No one can predict when unexpected medical situations will happen. What happens if you experience a catastrophic accident or illness that leaves you unconscious or unable to communicate? How do you make sure your wishes about your medical care are known?

By planning in advance, you can get the medical care you desire while relieving loved ones of making major medical decisions during moments of grief or crisis. Advance directives help reduce confusion and disagreements about medical care.

What Do You Have to Do to Complete an Advance Directive?

You must complete a form which is in substantial compliance with Oregon law; this form can be found online. To be in compliance with the law, your signature must be witnessed by two adults OR the document must be notarized by a notary public. 

What Do You Do After You Execute an Advance Directive?

Many folks believe that once they’ve completed an Advance Directive, that their job is done. Wrong.  

First, give your health care representative a copy and your doctor a copy for your medical records. Tell close family members and friends where you keep a copy. Give hospital staff a copy to include in your health records so it will be available if you have to go to the hospital. Carry a wallet-sized card that indicates you have advance directives, identifies your health care agent and states where a copy of your directives can be found. Keep a copy with you when you are traveling. Because you might change your advance directive in the future, it’s a good idea to keep track of who receives a copy.

Review your advance care planning decisions from time to time—for example, every 10 years, if not more often. You might want to revise your preferences for care if your situation or your health changes. Or, you might want to make adjustments if you receive a serious diagnosis; if you get married, separated, or divorced; if your spouse dies; or if something happens to your health care representative. If your preferences change, you will want to make sure your doctor, health care representative, and family know about them.

Need Help?

Planning for the worst case can be hard, but it is essential. If you need help having these conversations, contact the attorneys at The Commons Law Center by calling (503) 850-0811 or by emailing hello@thecommonslawcenter.org.

The Commons Law Center Blog is for information purposes only. It is not legal advice.

posted May 9, 2020

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