Advance Care Planning

Advance Care Planning

Advance care planning is the process of determining the medical care you would or would not want to receive when you cannot speak for yourself and defining who you would want to speak for you.

One of the most important parts of advance care planning is to write down all of your decisions. Using an advance directive form is one way to do this.

All adults, young and old, are encouraged to plan ahead for a worst-case scenario by stating their wishes ahead of time.

What is an advance directive?
What does the law say about advance directives?
What is a living will?
What is a durable power of attorney for health care?
Are advance directives only for senior citizens?
Can an advance directive be changed? Will an advance directive be honored in an emergency?
Is it difficult to stop treatment once it has been started?
Is there a time limit on how long my advance directive is valid?
After I complete an advance directive, what do I do with it?
Will my Georgia advance directive be honored if I am admitted for treatment in a different state?
Can I be refused admission to a hospice program if I don't have an advance directive?
Where can I get forms for advance directives?
May a provider refuse to implement my directives?

What is an advance directive?

An advance directive is a document written in advance of a serious illness or accident. It combines living will information (treatment preferences) with a durable power of attorney for health care into one form. In an advance directive, you will name a health care agent that can speak for you on the type of medical care you would prefer and who can make legally valid health care decisions for your medical treatment, if you cannot. It is important to discuss your treatment preferences with your health care agent because every situation is different.

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What does the law say about advance directives?

Generally, you have the right to refuse any medical treatment you do not wish to receive. Laws and advance directive forms vary from state to state. Most state laws allow you to sign an advance directive so that your wishes will be followed, even if you become unable to communicate them to your health care provider.

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What is a living will?

A living will is a written record, often found as part of an advance directive form in most states, in which you can tell a health care team the medical treatment you want if you:

  1. Have a terminal illness that will result in your death in a relatively short period of time
  2. Are in a situation that you are not aware of what is happening around you; you don't respond to stimuli; and the doctor feels this condition will persist.

State law describes the kind of form that must be used to have a valid living will.

A living will must be signed, dated and witnessed. A lawyer is not needed to draw up a living will, although you may decide consultation with a lawyer is desirable.

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What is a durable power of attorney for health care?

A durable power of attorney for health care is another kind of advance care planning form: a signed, dated and witnessed legal document in which you can name another person, a health care agent, to make medical decisions for you, if you become unable to make them.

A health care power of attorney that is not part of an Advanced Directive, typically, does not describe your treatment preferences unless a living will is added. Georgia law does not mandate that a specific health care power of attorney form must be used.

A durable power of attorney for health care can be written without the advice of a lawyer, although you may decide consultation with your attorney would be helpful.

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Are advance directives only for senior citizens?

No. A severe illness or serious accident can happen to a person at any age. If you have strong feelings about what choices you would want made in such a situation, regardless of your age, you are encouraged to consider completing an advance directive.

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Can an advance directive be changed?

These documents can be changed or revoked at any time. If you do make changes to an advance directive, be sure to destroy all of the outdated copies and provide copies of the new version to your family, physician and attorney. If you wish to change an advance directive while receiving treatment in a hospice program, notify your care team.

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Will an advance directive be honored in an emergency?

Usually, it is impossible to determine the chances of survival in an emergency situation or to determine the outlook for recovery. After the initial emergency has passed and depending on your condition, your advance directive may come into play if you are not able to express your wishes.

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Is it difficult to stop treatment once it has been started?

No, not if you have an advance directive that states who your health care agent is and this person honors your instructions. If your condition begins suddenly, it may take days or even weeks before the outlook for recovery is known. During this time, it is appropriate to use any treatments that might be beneficial. When the outlook for recovery is known, if your instructions indicate you would not want continued treatment under these circumstances, treatment can be changed to meet your wishes.

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Is there a time limit on how long my advance directive is valid?

No, but you are encouraged to update any advance directive periodically since this indicates you have given the matter a great deal of thought.

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After I complete an advance directive, what do I do with it?

Copies of an advance directive should be given to someone who would know if you became seriously ill. You should also give a copy to your physician, and you may want to consider giving a copy to your minister, family members or close friends. Of course, if you appoint an agent to make health care decisions for you, you should give a copy of your advance directive to the agent. Finally, you should consider carrying a card in your wallet stating that you have signed an advance directive and where it can be located.

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Will my Georgia advance directive be honored if I am admitted for treatment in a different state?

The law on honoring advance directives differs from state to state. As a general rule, states will honor an advance directive form from another state. Because an advance directive is an expression of your wishes about medical care, it will influence that care no matter where you are admitted. If you spend a great deal of time in more than one state, you might want to consider signing an advance directive that meets all of the requirements of each state.

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Can I be refused admission to a hospice program if I don't have an advance directive?

No. Federal law prohibits a hospice program from refusing to admit a patient because he or she does not have an advance directive. Health care providers are required to ask adult patients if they have an advance directive, document their answers and provide information on state laws and hospice program policies about advance directives.

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Where can I get forms for advance directives?

Download and print an advance directive form (PDF). The Georgia advance directive form contains four sections allowing you to define: your health care agent; treatment preferences; who you prefer as guardian; and a place for your signatures and that of your witnesses. ​

If you plan to sign the documents, you or your family members will be responsible for ensure that the required witnesses are present when you sign the documents.

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May a provider refuse to implement my directives?

Yes. A provider who is unwilling to comply with an advance directive (i.e., conscientious objection) will arrange for transfer of your care to another provider.

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Contact

For more information about advance care planning, ask your health care team or email us.



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