April 16 marks the seventh annual Healthcare Decisions Day in the Commonwealth of Virginia. On that day, related events will raise public awareness of the need to plan ahead for healthcare decisions concerning end-of-life care and for medical issues in circumstances when patients are not able to speak for themselves.
Accordingly, the occasion also encourages people to use documents known as advance directives to communicate these key healthcare decisions.
In Virginia, all adults have the right to prepare an advance directive, which spells out their wishes concerning their medical care. The purpose of an advance directive is to let other people know, in writing, what types of medical care they would like to have — or not to have — in the event that they become incapable of making informed healthcare decisions themselves.
An advance directive, also known as a healthcare power of attorney or medical directive, may come in one of two forms: a power of attorney for healthcare or a written healthcare directive.
In a power of attorney for healthcare, a person names another trusted individual, like a spouse, child or friend, to be his or her agent (also called a proxy). The agent is empowered to make decisions for the person should he or she become incapable of making these decisions independently.
Through a written healthcare directive, also known as a living will, a person states what types of healthcare he or she wants or does not want should he or she become incapable of expressing those wishes.
An experienced attorney who specializes in estate planning law is a key resource for anyone contemplating how to chart his or her lifetime objectives. Such an attorney can also help a person draft an advance directive that is tailored to fit that person’s specific wishes related to medical care.