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Advanced Directives Are They For You?
Many people have asked their physicians and attorneys what they can do to avoid a Terry Schiavo-like case arising in their family.The key lesson that tragic cases such as Terry Schiavos teaches is that pre-planning for such end of life situations is critical to relieving your families of the burden of these decisions.
Maryland, like Virginia, the District of Columbia and every other jurisdiction in the United States, has laws that allow each of us who are adults to designate another adult to make health care decisions, including certain end-of-life decisions, when we are unable to communicate our own wishes to our health care providers or when we are not able to understand the options given to us regarding treatment.The documentation of who is to make health care decisions for us and the extent of medical treatment we wish to receive is contained in a document sometimes known as an Advance Medical Directive or Health Care Proxy or Health Care Power of Attorney.
You may designate almost any adult you believe is capable of serving as your decision maker regarding your health care.You may not designate the owner or employee of a health care facility (or a spouse, child, parent or sibling of such an individual) from which you are receiving treatment as your agent unless that individual is your spouse, child, parent or sibling or you designated such individual to serve in that capacity prior to the time you began to receive treatment from the facility.
In addition to naming an agent to make medical decisions, each of us must consider whether we wish to leave written instructions regarding the extent of medical treatment to be rendered if we were to become terminally ill or lack any quality of life.The health care agent would then be expected to respect our wishes as expressed in our Advance Medical Directive and work with the health care providers to ensure that they are fulfilled.
Once signed you may revoke an Advance Medical Directive or Health Care Proxy at any time either by signing a new Directive or Proxy, by physically destroying the document or by making an oral statement to a health care practitioner and a witness.The substance of your oral revocation of the Directive or Health Care Proxy must be noted in your medical records.Of course, you must also
notify the agent you named in the
revoked document that you no long-er wish him or her to serve in this
You may obtain more information on the Maryland Advance Medical Directive and Health Care Power of Attorney from the Office of the Maryland Attorney General, 200 Saint Paul Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21202, 410-576-7000, www.oag.state.md.us.You should also consult with your attorney, physician and clergy to assist you in understanding the importance of these decisions.