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Patients have the right to make decisions about their care. This is true even when they are no longer able to communicate those decisions directly. An advance directive is a legal document that helps protect this right. There are two main types of advance directive (Living Will and Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare), and both are equally important:
Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare (DPOA)
Used to appoint a representative to make healthcare decisions for you, if you unable to communicate your healthcare decisions for any reason.
Only goes into effect if and when you lose the ability to communicate your own decisions.
- Choosing a representative means choosing someone who:
- knows you well and cares about you
- understands and respects your wishes
- can act for you by following your living will and make difficult decisions, especially in cases of any changes or unanticipated aspects of your condition
- can ask questions from healthcare providers and advocate for you in case a healthcare provider does not follow your wishes
- lives close enough to act for you
Click to download the DPOA PDF File
Used to document your wishes for future treatment in the event of incurable injury, disease, or illness certified to be a terminal condition.
Does NOT appoint a representative (You need the DPOA for that)
Only goes into effect if and when you develop a terminal condition that makes it impossible to communicate healthcare decisions directly.
- Protect patient rights.
- Helps remove the burden/stress of end-of-life decisions (including withdrawing life support) from family, friends, and healthcare providers.
- Helps family members and/or representative feel more comfortable about making treatment decisions based on your wishes and quality of life rather than the prolongation of life.
- Gives guidance to healthcare providers, particularly if your appointed representative is unwilling or unable to make difficult decisions when needed.
- Proves that your representative is acting in good faith, if his or her decisions are ever questioned.
Click to download the Living Will PDF file.
Who Needs an Advance Directive?
Anyone over the age of 18 should complete written advance directives. Accidents happen at any age, so these are not just for the elderly or chronically ill.
Make sure you give a copy of your advance directives to friends, family, and healthcare providers. Advance directives are useless, if others aren’t aware of them. You should also keep a copy at your residence in case of medical emergencies. Far too often terminally ill patients (even people on hospice) have not made others aware of their advance directives (even though their treating physicians may be aware of them). Without direction, ambulance personnel may initiate life-sustaining procedures that are contrary to patient wishes.
Do Not Resuscitate Directive
A DNR is a medical order not to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) in the case of cardiac or respiratory arrest. In other words, if you are found without a heartbeat or are not breathing, and you have a DNR directive, then health care providers will not attempt to restart your heart or breathing.
Legal document that allows adults to communicate, in advance, their desire to not be revived, should they stop breathing or their heart stops beating.
Put into place by individuals who are ill or injured, or by frail elderly, NOT by those who are in reasonably good health.
must be signed by you (or for you by someone else based upon your expressed direction), your physician, and two witnesses who are:
- 18 years of age or older
- not related to you by blood or marriage
- not entitled to your estate
- not financially responsible for your medical care
- not the same person who signed the document for you at your direction, if you are unable to sign for yourself.
- Talk with your physician at length to ensure that you completely understand the options and ramifications of a DNR directive before making the decision to withhold CPR.
In Kansas, you do not need a lawyer to complete the forms on this page, as Kansas statutes offer “fill-in-the-blank” forms that you may complete on your own. It is recommended that you use these forms if you are not using the services of an attorney. Consulting an attorney whenever you are contemplating end-of-life decisions may be helpful as well.
Click to download the DNR Directive PDF file.
Coultis Estate & Elder Law, LLC is a boutique law practice focusing on estate planning, elder law, and business valuation needs. They specialize in advance directives, so contact them if want to consult an attorney.