Thursday, March 31, 2022

Advance Directive for Healthcare

Adults, those persons who are over the age of 18, are presumed to have the legal right to make their own healthcare and safety decisions.  However, in the event that an adult cannot make or communicate healthcare decisions, there should be legal documents in place to allow someone to be a healthcare surrogate decision maker.   In Georgia, an adult who is able to understand what s/he is signing, can nominate an agent to make healthcare decisions for her/him for the time when s/he is not able to make such decisions.  The primary document for nominating that person is called an advance directive for healthcare. 

What is An Advance Directive for Healthcare?

An Advance Directive for Healthcare is a document in which you nominate an Agent to make healthcare decisions for you if you are not able to make or communicate those decisions for yourself.  An agent under the Advance Directive can make any healthcare decision that you could make for yourself, can talk to your healthcare providers, and can make end of life decisions based on the choices you communicate in the Advance Directive.  In addition, the Agent can make decisions about the disposition of your body after your death.  The Advance Directive allows you to choose how and when you want the Agent to act, and provides direction to the Agent regarding whether you would like extraordinary medical intervention to keep you alive if you are terminally ill with no hope of recovery and unable to communicate, or whether you want your life to end naturally.

What happens if I don’t have one?

If you don’t have an advance directive for healthcare, you lose the ability to decide who will make healthcare decisions for you and you lose the ability to let anyone know what decisions you would make if you were able to make or communicate those decisions. without an advance directive in place, your loved ones may have to petition the Probate Court to appoint a guardian to make healthcare decisions for you. 

Where can I get one?

There is a statutory form available on line, and most hospitals have Advance Directive forms available as well.  Waiting until you go to the hospital to fill one out can cause much stress, though, so you should fill one out and sign it in front of two witnesses before you will need one.

In addition, make sure you give your agent a copy so they have it available if they need to make decisions for you in an emergency.

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