Magazine article Ebony

Living Wills and Medical Powers of Attorney

Magazine article Ebony

Living Wills and Medical Powers of Attorney

Article excerpt

WHAT would happen if you were in a coma and while you hang in the balance, a heart-wrenching decision about your life has to be made quickly? At a time when you are incapable of making a decision about medical treatment, does your spouse or close loved one really know if you want to be connected to a respirator?

While most people don't want to think about the possibilities, it's important to put in writing how you want to be treated medically before an emergency happens by establishing a living will, a legal document that clearly states your wishes about the use of life-prolonging medical treatment in the event you become incapacitated.

The second type of advance directive is a medical power of attorney (POA). This is a legal document that appoints someone of your choice to be your authorized agent--often referred to as a health-care proxy--who makes medical decisions for you when you are not able to. The agent can be a family member, friend or whomever you trust to make competent decisions for you. Experts recommend you have both types of advance directives, or incorporate elements of both directives in one document because not only would you have your wishes on record, but you would also have someone who can make sure those requests are carried out.

Not simply for the elderly, anyone who is over the age of 18 can prepare an advance directive, says Kalimah Z. White, J.D., chair of the Probate Committee of the Real Estate and Probate Law Section of the National Bar Association.

The following are six tips to help you prepare an advance directive for health care:

Plan ahead. Think about what type of medical care you want or don't want. Certain medical procedures you should think about when preparing a directive include CPR (cardio pulmonary resuscitation), tube-feeding, blood transfusions as well as mechanical ventilation. …

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