Advance Directives in Ohio
January 28th, 2022
Estate planning is about much more than disposing of your assets after your death. An important part of your estate plan deals with decision-making for your care during life, in the event that you are unable to make or express decisions for yourself. Advance directives are a category of documents that allow you to plan for the event of your own incapacity.
No one wants to imagine a time when they will be unable to manage their own affairs and make their own medical decisions. Unfortunately, it is a possibility we all must consider. At least one in seven Americans will develop some form of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s, as they age. And a sudden accident, illness, or injury can render a person legally incapacitated at any age. That is why it is critical to have advance directives as part of your estate plan, no matter how old you are.
What is an Advance Directive?
An advance directive is a category of legal document that allows you to dictate how you want medical decisions made for you if you are unable to make those decisions for yourself. Advance directives can dictate who you would want to make medical decisions on your behalf, and describe the types of care you do or do not want in certain situations.
Why is it Important to Have an Advance Directive?
It may be tempting to put off making an advance directive in the hope that you will never need it. But creating an advance directive offers peace of mind: for you, knowing that your wishes for medical treatment will be honored, and for your family, who will not have to guess or argue about your wishes for care at a time of crisis.
If you were to fall unconscious or become comatose and need medical treatment, but didn’t have an advance directive in place, the attending physician would determine your course of treatment. The physician might also consult with your close family members for guidance. This can cause problems if family members don’t agree with the physician or with each other. The resulting conflict may delay your medical treatment and cause rifts between family members which may never heal, even if you do.
Having advance healthcare directives in place can lift the burden of stress and guilt from your family’s shoulders. Instead of agonizing or fighting about difficult medical decisions, they can focus on your needs, without having to worry about whether they made the right decisions about your treatment.
Types of Advance Healthcare Directives
There are multiple types of advance directives, each with different functions. Together, they provide your loved ones and doctors with the information and authority they need to honor your wishes. Advance healthcare directives in Dayton and Ohio include:
Medical Power of Attorney
A medical power of attorney, also called a “health care power of attorney” in Ohio, allows you to designate a person you trust (your “agent”) to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are unable to make those decisions yourself. A health care power of attorney is especially important if you want someone who is not a close relative, like a friend or an unmarried partner, to make decisions, since doctors usually consult close family members. A health care power of attorney is also essential if you worry that family members might disagree about your treatment.
This document explains what kinds of treatments, procedures, and life support you do or do not want used in an effort to extend your life. For example, a living will might address whether you would want the assistance of a mechanical breathing device or artificial nutrition if you had an irreversible, incurable, and untreatable condition.
A living will is important because many people would prefer to die naturally if they were in a terminal condition, but family members may feel guilty if they do not “do everything possible” to “save” a loved one. If you do not want your suffering prolonged unnecessarily, a living will allows your wishes to be honored while your loved ones are relieved of the responsibility of making end-of-life care decisions. Decisions not addressed in the living will can be made by your agent under a health care power of attorney.
Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) Orders
A Do Not Resuscitate order directs doctors and medical personnel not to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation on you if your breathing stops or if your heart stops beating. A DNR is a medical order written by a doctor at your request. It is helpful to keep a copy with your other advance directives so that your agent under a medical power of attorney and other family members will understand your wishes about CPR and will not attempt to counter them. You should also have a copy in your medical files.
Creating Advance Directives For Individuals in Dayton, Ohio
Creating advance directives involves confronting uncomfortable issues, which is why many people put off this important task. However, almost all of our clients tell us that completing the process of making medical powers of attorney, living wills, and other advance directives gave them great peace of mind, and they wish they had done it sooner. At Gudorf Law Group, our experienced team does everything possible to make the process comfortable and efficient.
If you want to ensure that your wishes for medical care are honored and relieve your loved ones of the burden of making your medical decisions in a crisis, please contact Gudorf Law Group to schedule a consultation. Even if you have existing advance directives, the law in this area frequently changes, so we are happy to help you review and update your existing documents as needed.