Advance directives are legal documents that state your wishes on the type of medical treatment you would want if you were unable to communicate those wishes yourself. These documents are accepted in all 50 states. They are filled out when you are of sound mind and inform your family and physician of the type of care you would like if you become unable to make your own medical decisions.
For more information, please call Patient and Family Services at 859-323-5501, Monday - Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
When a patient becomes so ill that medicine can do little or nothing to help the patient's condition, the purpose of medical treatment may change from curing to caring. Under these circumstances, the medical focus is making the patient as comfortable and pain-free as possible.
Filling out an advance directive is one way to state your wishes by saying, "When the disease process is so advanced that my condition is irreversible and I am unable to communicate, I do not want my life to be extended with the use of life-sustaining procedures. Use all methods available to ensure that I am comfortable and cared for in a compassionate manner."
While most advance directives tell your doctor that you don't want certain types of treatment, they can also define certain treatments you would want, regardless of your illness.
Types of advance directives
Living wills and health care proxies are two types of advance directives that allow you to control your medical care if you are no longer able to make medical decisions on your own. A living will comes into effect when you are terminally ill, meaning you have less than six months to live. In a living will, you determine the circumstances in which you want to be given particular life-sustaining treatments and decide what kind of treatment you want in certain situations. A living will does not allow you to select someone to make decisions for you.
A health care proxy is someone you assign to make medical decisions for you if you are unable to make them for yourself. This person may make decisions that are not clearly stated in your advance directive.
If you change your mind about signing an advance directive, simply tear it up and tell your family and your physician. It is important that your doctor and any family members who knew about your directives also know you have changed them.