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Advance Directives: Planning in Advance for your Healthcare

Advance Directives: Planning in Advance for your Healthcare

It’s a new year with countless new opportunities and adventures waiting for us! With the new year, it is a chance for everybody to think about what we want in life and how we want to live. When thinking of New Year’s Resolutions and creating goals for 2020, have you ever thought of making it a goal to talk about your wishes for healthcare? You may be thinking that this is not a happy, upbeat conversation to have at the beginning of the new year; however, it does provide you the opportunity to talk with the ones you love about your wishes. This article is written to provide readers general information regarding making healthcare decisions and creating an advance directive.

What is an Advance Directive?

An advance directive is a written statement of a person’s wishes regarding medical treatment made to ensure those wishes are carried out should the person be unable to communicate them to a doctor. An advance directive allows you to state your choices and wishes for healthcare. In Nebraska, there are two common forms of advance directives:

  1. Living Will
  2. Healthcare Power of Attorney

What is a Living Will?

A living will is a written statement detailing a person’s wishes regarding their medical treatment in situations in which they are no longer to express your own decisions. A living will in Nebraska is a document that tells your healthcare provider whether or not you would want life-sustaining treatments or procedures to be administered if you are in a terminal condition or a persistent vegetative state.

A terminal condition is an incurable condition where it is reasonably expected to result in death.

Life-sustaining treatments are treatments or procedures that are not expected to cure a terminal condition or make you better. Life-sustaining treatments only prolong death.

A persistent vegetative state is where a person is in a permanent coma or state of unconsciousness which could have been caused by injury, illness, or disease.

What is a Healthcare Power of Attorney?

A Healthcare Power of Attorney (POA) is a legal document that appoints another person, such as a husband, wife, daughter, son, etc., to be your representative to make medical decisions for you if you should be unable to make or communicate them yourself.  When appointing a Healthcare Power of Attorney, you can designate alternates who can make medical decisions should your primary Healthcare POA is unable or unwilling to act in your behalf.

Healthcare Power of Attorney is also called Medical Durable Power of Attorney or Power of Attorney for Healthcare.

When does an Advance Directive take effect?

A living will in the state of Nebraska goes into effect when:

  1. Your healthcare provider has a copy
  2. Your healthcare provider has concluded that you are no longer able to make your own healthcare decisions, and
  3. Your healthcare provider has determined that you are in either a terminal condition or a persistent vegetative state and that they use of life-sustaining procedures will only prolong your death.

A Healthcare Power of Attorney in the state of Nebraska goes into effect when:

  1. Your healthcare provider has a copy of the document, and
  2. Your doctor has determined that you are unable to make your own healthcare decisions, either temporarily or permanently.

*Remember, as long as you can make your own healthcare decisions, you have the right to do so.

Who should have an Advance Directive?

In the state of Nebraska, you must be 19 years of age or older to create and have an advance directive. It is encouraged that everybody 19 years of age and older have an advance directive as they can answer some questions that may arise about the kind of medical treatment you may or may not want. However, it is entirely up to you whether or not you want to create an advance directive.

If a person does decide to create an advance directive, at any time you may cancel or change any decision that you have made. To cancel or change an advance directive, simply destroy the original document and tell anyone who has a copy that you have canceled or changed it. If you would like to make changes, write, date, and have two witnesses, a notary public, or a lawyer sign the document.

When an advance directive is created and signed, copies should be provided to family members, your healthcare provider, and the hospital where you receive treatment.

How can I create an Advance Directive?

To create a Living Will and/or a Healthcare Power of Attorney:

  1. You must be at least 19 years of age.
  2. It must be in writing and typed.
    Important note: the document needs to be signed in the presence of two witnesses, a notary public, or a lawyer.
  3. There are forms or booklets that are created specifically for Nebraska. Ask your healthcare provider for the forms or search online for ‘Nebraska Advance Directive forms’. You may also discuss and do the documents with a lawyer. Contact your local law offices to see who you can discuss advance directive documents with.

It is important when you are creating advance directive documents to talk to family or other important people in your life regarding your decisions for medical treatments. The conversation is one of the most important parts of the process. It may not be an easy conversation to have, but having these conversations with family members or other important people will allow you to know that when you are unable to make your own medical decisions, your wishes for medical treatments are respected and honored.