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Why you should have an Advance Directive

In a medical emergency, or any other circumstance which leaves you unable to communicate, your Advance Directive/Living Will will help those responsible for your care to decide on your treatment. And it will help your loved ones to make the right decisions on your behalf.

Without an Advance Directive you may be subject to aggressive medical intervention, which you may not want to have. Or you may have a specific medical condition for which you do want all available treatment.

Speak with your doctor or medical practitioner

It is important that you discuss your health care desires with your doctor or medical practitioner. He or she is likely to be the one caring for you when your instructions become relevant and is much more likely to honour requests that have been communicated directly. Your doctor or medical practitioner can:

  • Help you phrase your requests in a way that makes sense to medical professionals and can answer any questions you may have.

  • Point out any illogical or inconsistent features of your requests. Sometimes refusing one kind of treatment makes it illogical to expect to receive another kind of treatment. Your doctor or medical healthcare giver can smooth out some of these "rough edges" and help make a consistent and coherent directive.

  • Tell you if there are aspects of your requests that he or she cannot honour because of personal, moral, or professional or legal constraints.

Discuss with your family

Despite your best efforts to plan for all eventualities in a health care declaration, actual events may not "fit" your directives. It is therefore important that you discuss your desires with family and friends.

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  • Your family can often help clarify your directives on the basis of recollections of specific discussions under specific circumstances.

  • If you have discussed your wishes with a number of people, it is more likely that those wishes will be honoured.

  • Discussions with family members can help avoid unpleasant scenes and confrontations when you are incapacitated. While family members may have little legal authority to make decisions for incapacitated patients, they often feel they have moral authority. They may be confused by statements not previously shared with them, and may even try to contest your wishes legally if they feel your choices are not in your "best interest."

Planning ahead with an Advance Directive can give your principal caregiver, family members, and other loved ones’ peace of mind when it comes to making decisions about your future health care. It lets everyone know what is important to you, and what is not.

Talking about death with those close to us is not about being ghoulish or giving up on life, but a way to ensure greater quality of life, even when faced with a life-limiting illness or tragic accident. When your loved ones are clear about your preferences for treatment, they’re free to devote their energy to care and compassion.