A key component in an estate plan is the Georgia Advanced Directive for Health Care. This document allows you to name the people who have access to your medical information and who may make decisions about your medical care in the event you cannot. Upon attaining the age of 18 and becoming a legal adult, a parent cannot make medical decisions or gain access to your medical records. In the event of an emergency, it is important that health care professionals know who to contact. The Georgia Advanced Directive for Health Care appoints an agent, or agents, to act on your behalf. Any agent named must act in your best interests but is allowed access to your medical information without violating HIPPA. You can name people to act together, successively, or upon attaining a specific age.
A Georgia Advanced Directive for Health Care also allows you to state your preferences on medical treatment and end of life care. By naming an agent, you are granting someone the ultimate authority to decide if you should remain on life support or be removed from life support. In addition to end-of-life care, if you have preferences on autopsy, organ donation, cremation or burial, your health care directive allows you to make those preferences known.
Such a decision can take a heavy emotional toll on your loved ones, which is why indicating your preference in your directive can make the decision easier. Additionally, by indicating your preference, you can avoid fighting among family members. While each loved one wants what is best for you, a spouse and a parent may not agree on the best course of care. The decisions in your health care directive can be tough to make, but they can provide peace for your family.
Example 1: Lindsay is 90 years old and has three children, seven grandchildren, and two great grandchildren. Lindsay has indicated that she has lived a good life and does not want to be on life support if her body begins to fail. Lindsay created a Georgia Advanced Directive for Health Care, naming her oldest son as her agent. One day Lindsay collapses from a stroke and the doctors indicate her health will continue to decline regardless of any medical action and she will not regain consciousness. Her son gives the doctor’s Lindsay’s Georgia Advanced Directive for Health Care and asks them to carry out her wishes not to remain on life support. Lindsay passes peacefully with her three children around her. Her son knows he honored his mother’s wishes and doesn’t feel guilty that he was the one who had to order the removal of life support.
Example 2: Amanda is 30 with a spouse and two young children. At work one day she has an aneurism and falls into a coma. Amanda believed she was in good health and too young, so she never made a Georgia Advanced Directive for Health Care. Her husband is not ready to say goodbye, but her parents do not want to see her spending an unknown length of time on life support in a hospital passing without getting better. Because Amanda has no Georgia Advanced Directive for Health Care and no agent, her spouse and parents fight over the best course of action, ultimately taking the issue to court. In the end, Amanda passes as a result of her injuries, despite the care of her physicians. Her spouse and parents are bitter toward one another and have a bad relationship after her passing. If Amanda made a Georgia Advanced Directive for Health Care, she could have stated who her ultimate agent was (preventing fighting among family), and could have indicated her preference for end of life care (providing peace for the family and allowing them to simply carry out her wishes).
Having a health care directive is not the same as a “do not resuscitate (DNR)” and does not account for every scenario or medical situation. However, it can provide clear guidance on end-of-life care and authorize someone to make the necessary decisions. Health care directives can prevent family fighting, bitter feelings, and internal guilt on loved ones as they are asked to make difficult decisions regarding your care. We can all hope to live to an old age, but a Georgia Advanced Directive for Health Care is important for young people too. Unexpected injury and illness can create unimaginable scenarios. Planning for all of life’s circumstances can allow you and your family to move confidently through life, knowing there is clear direction for whatever may come.
At Drew Eckl & Farnham, we work with clients at all points in life to create a plan that meets each individual’s needs. You are never too young or too old to put proper planning in place.