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Common Misconceptions About Health Care Directives

There are many misconceptions regarding health care directives.

Misconception: Advance directives are only for the elderly.

Fact: Due to medical advancements, younger people have more at stake. If stricken due to an accident, modern medical techniques can keep a person alive for decades in a vegetative state or coma.

Misconception: Naming a health care proxy takes away your ability to make your own medical decisions.

Fact: You always have the right to make your own health care decisions while you are competent to do so. Additionally, you can revoke a health care directive at any time or override your proxies decisions.

Misconception: Once a health care directive is executed it cannot be changed. You should wait until you are certain about your wishes before executing a health care directive.

End of life topics can be complicated. You should not wait since you can change or revoke the directive when circumstances change or whenever you wish.

Misconception: Advance directives mean that you will not be treated.

Fact: Advance directives are used to tell what you want as well as what you do not want. You will always receive pain medication and be kept comfortable even if you do not want treatment to cure you.

Misconception: Without an advance directive you can not stop end-of-life treatment.

Fact: Though decisions by your loved ones will be more difficult and confusing without an advance directive, treatment can be stopped if everyone is in agreement.

Misconception: Advance directives are not legal in every state.

Fact: Generally each state recognizes advance directives if they meet the legal requirements of that state.

Misconception: A lawyer is required to make an advance directive.

State laws permit various advance directive forms as long as they contain certain content. A lawyer is not required but if you have questions or concerns it is always prudent to get legal advice.

Misconception: Health care providers are not legally obligated to follow my advance directive.

Fact: Legally, your health care provider must recognize your advance directive, however, there are instances where your health care provider may not recognize a legal advance directive. These instances are few but here a couple of instances:

1. If your health care provider objects on a matter of conscience.

2. If the directive is vague and open to interpretation.

3. If your directive refuses treatment which, based on circumstances at the time, can be legally given without your consent. An example would be your refusal to be admitted to a psychiatric facility when you meet the requirements for involuntary admission.

4. If your health care provider is unaware of your advance directive.