If you were in a car accident or had a stroke or heart attack, does your family know what kinds of intervention you would want? Advanced care directives help patients control the type of care they receive if they are unable to communicate their wishes. Unfortunately, few people ever complete a directive, leaving loved ones to make life and death decisions on their behalf without guidance.
It is always a good idea to discuss end-of-life care with your physician and family members, particularly if you have a life-threatening condition. While these discussions are never easy, completing an advanced care directive and leaving copies with your family and physician helps to ensure that your wishes are carried out.
Advanced Care Directives vary from state to state. They come in two forms:
Living Will - this document spells out the kind of life-saving and life-sustaining care and treatment a patient wishes to receive in the event of future incapacitation or terminal illness. In Massachusetts, this provides evidence of patient wishes, but it is not legally binding.
Health Care Proxy - this legally binding document allows a patient to name someone of your choice to make health care decisions for you in the event you cannot speak for yourself. You can obtain a Health Care Proxy from your physician or hospital. You can also obtain a sample of the Massachusetts Proxy, as well as other helpful end of life care resources, from the Hospice Federation of Massachusetts and from the Central Massachusetts Partnership Better Ending program.
This information provided by the Group Insurance Commission.