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  • Northern Virginia Trusts & Estates

Why Having an Advance Healthcare Directive is So Important During the Coronavirus Pandemic

It’s always been important to have an Advance Healthcare Directive. This legal document, also known as an Advance Medical Directive, details whether or not you would want potentially life-saving healthcare measures taken if you were to become too sick or injured to communicate your wishes yourself, as well as lists who you want to make medical decisions on your behalf when you can’t voice your own opinion.

However, in the midst of the global Coronavirus pandemic – which has put tens of thousands of Americans infected with COVID-19 and experiencing serious breathing issues on ventilators in attempts to save their lives – creating this legal document now is more necessary than ever before.

What is an Advance Healthcare Directive?

Sometimes also called a Living Will, an Advance Healthcare Directive serves two main purposes: to state what type of medical interventions you would want if you can’t communicate them on your own, and to name the people, in order of priority, who you want to make medical decisions on your behalf in case you become incapacitated. In this context, incapacitated is defined as when your current physical or mental quality of life is degraded to the point that there is no reasonable expectation that you can recover and return to a physical and mental condition of self-sufficiency and intelligence.

Why is it So Important to Have an Advance Healthcare Directive?

While none of us like to think about becoming so sick or injured that using an Advance Medical Directive would be necessary, it’s important to think through potential health crises and determine what healthcare measures you would want if you were critically sick or injured. For example, this legal document allows you to express your wishes for whether or not:

  1. You want to be placed on a ventilator or other life support healthcare devices.

  2. You want doctors to attempt to resuscitate you if your heart stops beating or you stop breathing.

  3. You want to be kept alive if you’re incapacitated and experiencing pain.

  4. You want to be given food and water if you become incapacitated.

  5. You want antibiotics to treat an infection if you can’t communicate your desires to take medications yourself.

  6. And many more occurrences in which this document would be necessary.*

Living wills also allow you to name the primary person, and successors, who you want to make any medical decisions for you if you’re unable to do so yourself. Most married individuals default to having this person be their spouse. However, especially in the age of COVID-19, it’s important to name successors. After all, it’s likely that if you’re infected and are experiencing complications like breathing issues, your spouse may be too. If you don’t have a backup person named to make medical decisions for yourself, doctors or courts may make these choices for you.

Is There a Certain Age at Which You Need to Get an Advance Medical Directive?

All adults need an advance medical directive. Even if the sick or injured person is your young adult child, as soon as he or she turns 18, you’re no longer legally allowed to make medical decisions for him or her. This means that you need to get these documents created for your high school seniors and young adult children in college.

File Your Advance Healthcare Directive with Your Local Hospital and Make Sure Your Loved Ones Have Access to It

Many hospitals allow local residents to submit their Advance Healthcare Directives to them. This means that if you were to become unable to make medical decisions yourself, the hospital you would likely be in could search their own internal records to find out what your wishes are.

Even if you file your Advance Medical Directive with your local hospital, you should make sure your loved ones – and especially the people you’ve listed to make medical decisions on your behalf – have access to this important document. If you lock it up in a safe, make sure they have access to the safe’s key or code. Another good idea is to store a digital copy of this document in a secure cloud platform or on a USB drive that you carry with you at all times so this document can be easily accessed if it becomes necessary to access while you are away from your hometown.

We Can Help You Make Your Medical Wishes Legally Known

If you don’t have an Advance Medical Directive, there’s never been a more urgent time to have one than during the midst of our current pandemic. For help creating this document, contact our law offices today at (703) 938-3510 or fill out our online contact form.

*Please consult your doctor about any potential health crises to determine what healthcare measures you would want if you were critically sick or injured.

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