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Why Everyone Should Have An Advance Health Care Directive

by Herb Weisbaum

Thursday, March 8th 2018

About two out of three U.S. adults don’t have any kind of advance directive. These legal documents – "living wills" and health care powers of attorney – let you communicate your end-of-life health care wishes. They spell out what you want done – or not done – if you are incapacitated due to sickness or accident.

"If you don't have a health directive, then other people are going to be making the decisions for you,” said Dr. John Swartzberg, head of the editorial board at the UC Berkeley Wellness Letter.

Dr. Swartzberg says it's critically important that you make your wishes known by having these documents prepared.

"For example, if you’re in an automobile accident and you're on a ventilator, unconscious and can't talk, others are going to make the decision about how long you need to be on that ventilator and how aggressive the doctors should be,” he said. “These are things that you can decide beforehand and have your voice heard even when you can't say it yourself."

The Wellness Letter reports that people with advance health care directives are less likely to die in hospitals and more likely to receive the end-of-life medical care they want.

Remember, these documents cannot anticipate all medical situations, so it's also important that you make your wishes known to the health care surrogate you chose to implement your health care directives.

Ephie Trataros