Advance directives are legal documents that tell your doctor your wishes about medical treatment when you are unable to communicate these decisions or choices yourself. Generally, these documents are signed in advance of treatment to let your doctors and healthcare team know your wishes. For example, if you fell into a coma, they would let the doctor know the type and duration of life-sustaining treatment you want, or say whom you want to make the decisions for your care.
What you should know:
- Advance directives are not required for admission to the hospital, but are strongly recommended.
- Discuss your wishes with loved ones.
- Give copies to your family, doctors, and any healthcare facilities where you receive treatment.
- You can change your mind by simply destroying the original and letting all pertinent parties know of the change.
- These directives only go into effect when you are no longer able to make your own health care decisions (no longer able to provide informed consent).
Idaho law recognizes two types of advance directives: a Living Will Declaration and a Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare.
- Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare: This document specifies who will act on your behalf if you are no longer able to provide informed consent. This surrogate will make healthcare decisions for you, including whether to provide or withhold treatment, authorizing admission to or transfer from a healthcare facility, and applying for public benefits to defray the cost of healthcare.
- Living Will Declaration: A living will expresses your desire to not have your life artificially prolonged under specific sets of circumstances, such as when two or more doctors agree that there is no medical probability of recovering from a terminal (life-ending) medical condition. A living will generally requests that only comfort or pain relief measures be given in such a circumstance, and that your death be allowed to occur naturally. You may provide additional instructions such as a certain time period to allow particular rescue measures to be given before stopping their use. In Idaho, this document requires two witnesses, and we recommend you have a Public Notary notarize all signatures.
If you do not make any advance directives, there is a chance you may receive life-prolonging procedures that you might not wish to have. If you have no advance directives, your healthcare providers will look to others to make life-prolonging care decisions in the following order:
- Your guardian, if the court has appointed one, or a health care surrogate you have appointed.
- Your spouse.
- An adult child (if you have more than one, the doctor will seek opinions from all who are reasonably available to consult).
- Either of your parents.
- An adult sibling (if you have more than one, the doctor will seek opinions from all who are reasonably available to consult).
- Any other of your adult relatives who have shown special care or concern for you, and who are familiar with your activities, health, religious, or moral beliefs.
- A close friend who has shown special care or concern for you, and who is familiar with your activities, health, and religious or moral beliefs.