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DO I REALLY NEED AN ADVANCE DIRECTIVE?

POSTED BY APRIL GRUNDEN ON MAY 31, 2016 8:30:00 AM

According to the Indiana State Department of Health, “advance directive” is a term that refers to your spoken and written instructions about your future medical care and treatment.”  Much confusion exists about what happens if you do not have an advance directive either in a medical emergency or if you become mentally unable to make decisions.  Here we answer a few common questions and provide links to free advance directive forms.

Do I Give Away Control If I Sign An Advance Directive?

No, an advance directive does not remove your right to make decisions about your current health care.  You still call the shots until you are either unable to communicate or your physician determines you no longer have capacity to make medical decisions. 

What Happens If I Do Not Have An Advance Directive?

If you do not have an advance directive, Indiana law provides that any member of your immediate family or a person appointed by the court may make your health care decisions.  Sometimes this may result in the doctor allowing the first family member contacted to make decisions.  This may also result in the wrong person, or at least someone who does not know your wishes, making decisions for you.

How Would My Family Know Whether I Want To Be An Organ Donor?

Indiana has adopted the Indiana Uniform Anatomical Gift Act which allows Hoosiers to designate their intent on organ donation via a will, living will, organ donation card, or driver’s license or through registration with programs such as Donate Life Indiana.  Otherwise, someone else will make the decision for you.    

What Types of Advance Directives Can I Make?

  1. Living Will Declaration -- A Living Will allows you to express your wishes regarding refusal of life-prolonging treatments such as blood transfusions and using a respirator, CPR, food and hydration, etc. once a physician determines that you meet conditions as generally described by statute. 
  2. Life Prolonging Procedures Declaration -- This Declaration is the opposite of a Living Will and requests the use of all life-prolonging medical treatments to extend your life.  A common misconception is that the life prolonging declaration is the default law of Indiana.  On the contrary, you must execute a written declaration to make such a directive.
  3. Out-of-hospital Do Not Resuscitate Declaration and Order -- This is used to indicate to EMS personnel that you do not wish to receive CPR when you are no longer in the hospital.  Such an order is used commonly for hospice and terminally ill patients who return home after hospitalization.
  4. Physicians Order for Scope of Treatment (POST) -- The POST form is the newest Indiana advance directive option.  The POST form is an order signed by a physician when you suffer certain advanced, chronic, illness from which you will likely not recover.  The POST law requires a specific form as well as certain filing requirements found in Indiana Code 16-36-6.
  5. Psychiatric Advance Directive -- Indiana allows for an advance directive to set forth specific terms of care of a mental illness during incapacity.  The specific requirements of this form may be found in Indiana Code 16-36-1.7.
  6. Health Care Representative/Power of Attorney -- Probably the most comprehensive advance directive established by Indiana law is the ability to appoint a representative or power of attorney to stand in your shoes and make decisions regarding your health care when you can no longer do so.

Which Advance Directive Should I Use?

You may wish to use one or a combination of advance directive documents.  Your specific health care situation as well as your wishes will help determine which documents to use.  A free initial discussion with our firm will assist in making your choice.  Some of these forms may “trump” or override other advance directives.  Take care when decide which advance directives to use.

Can I Change My Mind?

Absolutely.  However, changing your mind likely requires a written revocation of the document or the replacement of your prior document with a new document. 

Do I Need To Tell Anyone If I Have Advance Directives?

Yes, communicating your wishes to your family and medical providers is essential to ensuring that your health care directives are followed.  Provide your physician with copies of your documents as well as designated family members.  Services such as Legal Directives provide 24/7 access to your documents both to you online and to medical providers in an emergency situation by providing you will a wallet identification card.

Are There Any Forms That I Can Use to Make My Advance Directives?

Click here to find the Indiana State Department of Health's free downloads. 

For more information on Indiana Advance Directives, please visit the ISDH Advance Directive Resource Center.

April Grunden