You can use an advance directive to make your medical decisions in a few different ways. The first one is simply to make your end-of-life treatment choices in advance, write down a list of instructions, and keep it on file so that the medical team can refer to it. For instance, people will sometimes list out that they don’t want to be resuscitated or other types of treatment they want to avoid.
However, the problem with this is that these plans often end up being too vague and incredibly dated. They may not give doctors enough information to make decisions, or doctors may have to decide if someone still wants to abide by healthcare decisions they made 30 or 40 years ago. If the people haven’t updated their advance directives, they don’t have more current information.
What can you do instead?
Another option to address this is to use a medical power of attorney. Using this document instead allows you to give the legal ability to make medical decisions on your behalf to an agent of your choosing. In the case of your incapacitation, this agent steps in and helps to work with your medical team.
This is much better because this person can consider your current circumstances and interact directly with the medical team. They can also make decisions based on things that happen as they occur, in real-time and in response to new technologies or options. In this sense, the directions given to the doctors will not be vague or dated.
If you’re interested in setting up a document like this, be sure you know what legal steps to take so that your needs are clearly met.