Myth or Fact? End-of-Life Directives
By Bruce Dalglish of Philadelphia
A reality that patients, caregivers and families have to contend with is discerning myth from fact when it comes to matters of end-of-life advance directives. Unfortunately, there are many misconceptions circulating which can be difficult to navigate, especially during what tends to be a very emotional time.
It should be noted at the outset that legalized advance directives vary per state, and can be drafted by attorneys or health care facility personnel based upon your specific instructions in compliance with state regulations.
Here are two online resources to help when researching advance directives:
Also, it should be clarified that there are two kinds of advance directives: healthcare power of attorney and living will.
- Through a healthcare power of attorney the patient can appoint someone trusted (in advance) to make medical care related decisions, in the event that the patient is no longer able to make such decisions.
- Through a living will a patient can express his/her end-of-life wishes for treatment. This document directs medical staff’s decisions in the event that the patient is no longer able to communicate toward the end of life.
Now, here are some myths and facts that will not only help clarify many misconceptions, but will hopefully help streamline the process of dealing with end-of-life advance directives:
Myth #1: Only one type of advance directive exists that covers all end-of-life legal matters.
Fact #1: While a legal power of attorney exists for all financial matters, and a power of attorney exists for health matters, these are two separate documents that are often merged into one single, comprehensive legal document.
Myth #2: Advance directives should only be planned by terminally ill patients.
Fact #2: According to studies, many patients are interested in consulting with their physicians concerning end-of-life decisions while they remain in relatively good health, before the need becomes urgent.
Myth #3: The definition of an advance directive is understood my medical staff as: “do not treat.”
Fact #3: An advance directive instructs medical staff to treat a patient per his/her expressed wishes.
Myth #4: If a patient has appointed a proxy through an advance directive, the patient relinquishes all control concerning healthcare decisions.
Fact #4: If the patient retains the established ability to make healthcare related decisions, the patient may still continue to do so.
Myth #5: It is mandatory for an attorney to complete an advance directive.
Fact #5: Each state provides guidelines for preparing advance directives, and the use of an attorney may be helpful, but not required.
Myth #6: An advance directive does not legally bind doctors and other healthcare providers to follow the patient’s advance directive.
Fact #6: Advance directives are legally binding for all healthcare workers.
Myth #7: Only the elderly should prepare advance directives.
Fact #7: Advance directives are important for everyone, regardless of age, as accidents or illnesses may occur at any time.
Myth #8: The patient’s attending physician may be appointed as the durable power of attorney for healthcare matters.
Fact #9: The patient may not appoint any member of his/her healthcare team to serve as power of attorney through an advance directive in order to protect the patient’s best interests.
If you would like to consult with an Alliance Hospice expert, our staff is always available to help.
About the Author
A resident of Philadelphia, Bruce Dalglish has served as the Chairman and CEO of Alliance Hospice and All Caring Hospice since 2005. In this role, Bruce Dalglish oversees the development and strategic direction of both companies. From 2008 – 2013, Bruce Dalglish served on the Public Policy Committee of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO).
Disclaimer: Alliance Hospice blogs provide education information, not medical advice. Please consult with your medical providers when making end-of-life care decisions.