Learn About Advance Directives
What is an advance directive?
An advance directive is a written statement that expresses a person's health care wishes and is to be used should that person become incapacitated and unable to express those wishes. ALWR will store two types of advance directives: living wills and health care surrogates (also known as a durable power of attorney for health care) and a living will.
- What is a Living Will?
A Living Will is a legal document which allows you to state in advance the medical procedures you do or do not want to receive if you have a terminal illness or are in a persistent vegetative state.
- What is a health care surrogate?
A health care surrogate is a person you have chosen to make medical treatment decisions for you in the event you cannot do so yourself. It becomes active any time you are unconscious or unable to make medical decisions.
- Why do I need an advance directive?
Anyone over the age of 18 should prepare an advance directive. This gives you the ability to make decisions about your medical treatment when you are unable to do so. Not stating your wishes in writing may mean they are not carried out. You may be forcing family members to make a decision they are not able to make which could cause an emotional and financial burden to your loved one. Signing an advance directive is something you can do for your loved ones, as well as for yourself.
- What happens if I do not have an advance directive?
Most states will appoint a surrogate to make decisions for you, usually a family member. However, family members may not agree on treatment and may not even know what your wishes are in a specific situation.
- Is an advanced directive legally binding?
The Registry does not know of any states that do not honor an advance directive as your right to privacy given in the United States Constitution. The 1990 Patient Self-Determination Act requires all hospitals to tell a patient their options concerning Advance Directives. Doctors and hospitals want to know your wishes, and above all, see them in writing.
- Do these documents need to be notarized?
Some states require advance directives be notarized. America Living Will Registry recommends the documents be notarized, demonstrating the more serious intent of the documents.
- Who may witness my advance directives?
Most states require that your two adult witnesses should not be related to you, nor should they be your Health Care Surrogate, your physician, or beneficiaries of your estate.
- How can I make sure my advance directive is enforced?
Be sure to discuss your decision with your health care surrogate, your doctor, and your family. Registering your documents with ALWR will significantly increase the probability that health care providers will have your documents in an emergency and will know your wishes. The best documents are worthless unless they are available.
- Is an advance directive in effect in an emergency situation?
Due to the nature of an emergency situation, there is generally no time to consult your wishes in the advance directive. Once a patient is under the care of a physician, the wishes of your advance directives will be honored.
- How often should my advance directive be updated and how long is it in effect?
Your advance directives are in effect until you amend or revoke them, and changes may be made at any time. The Registry will notify you of any changes in the law which would require you to amend your advance directives. There is no fee for this service. We recommend you review your documents each year.
- How does America Living Will Registry work?
The Registry electronically stores your documents in our computer database. Members are sent an identification card which you are asked to place in your wallet. This card instructs health care providers how to contact ALWR at our toll-free number or how to access our website to retrieve the documents needed.
- How much does it costs to be a member of America Living Will Registry?
A registration fee of $40 is charged to set up your file with America Living Will Registry. The first year service fee of $15 is paid at the time of registration and will be billed to you each subsequent year on the anniversary of your registration date. You will receive periodic newsletters and notification of any legal changes that could affect your advance directive.
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