Health Care Directives 101

What is a Health Care Directive?

The Georgia Advance Directive for Health Care (“Health Care Directive”) is a legal document that allows you to name someone to act on your behalf in a health care context should you become unable or unwilling to speak for yourself. This person is called your “agent.”  The Health Care Directive is only effective while you are alive, and only comes into effect if you truly cannot speak for yourself. Even if you can only communicate by blinking once for “yes” and twice for “no,” you can still communicate with doctors about your health care and therefore your agent will not have authority to act on your behalf.

What happens if I don’t have a Health Care Directive?

Without a properly executed Health Care Directive, a Probate Court proceeding may be necessary to appoint a guardian over you to make health care decisions for you if you become incapacitated. A guardianship proceeding can be costly, and there is the possibility that the Court would appoint someone as your guardian whom you would not have selected to make health care decisions for you. Therefore, it is important to have a Health Care Directive so that you control who will be authorized to make health care decisions for you when you are not able to do so.

The Health Care Directive also allows you to provide guidance to your agent for specific circumstances regarding your end-of-life treatment preferences. Generally speaking, your agent is responsible for making choices regarding your health care based on the guidance you provide for them in the Health Care Directive, or in other communications you have had with them.

How do I choose my Health Care Agent?

You should choose an agent with good judgment, and whom you trust to follow the guidance you have provided. This is very important because when your agent needs to act you will no longer have the physical ability to communicate your wishes regarding treatment. Once you have chosen your agent, it is important that you discuss your wishes with them so that both of you feel comfortable with your treatment preferences and are on the same page in regard to carrying out your wishes when the time comes.

Should you have any questions about Health Care Directives, please contact an attorney.

Posted in ,