Questions & Answers about Advance Care Planning

What are Advance Directives?

Advance Directives are legal documents in which patients express their wishes about the kind of healthcare they want to receive should they become unable to make their own treatment decisions. 

What is a Living Will or Advanced Care Plan?

They are legal documents in which patients are able to state in advance their desire to receive or their desire to withhold life support procedures when they are permanently unconscious or terminally ill and unable to make informed decisions. In 2004, Tennessee law changed the Living Will to Advance Care Plan.

What treatments are covered?

The Living Will permits the withholding or withdrawal of any treatment that might be considered life prolonging or that artificially extends the dying process. 

Who can complete a Living Will?

Anyone over the age of 18 years who is of sound mind can complete a Living Will. It must be witnessed by two adults or be notarized.

Can a Living Will be revoked?

A Living Will can be revoked at any time and in any manner, e.g., by the patient simply tearing up the Living Will document, expressing orally the desire to revoke the document, or in writing by the patient. 

What is an Appointment of Health Care Agent?

The Appointment of Health Care Agent is a document that allows patients to specify in advance who should make health care decisions for them should they become unable to make their own health care decisions. 

When does an Appointment of Health Care Agent take effect?

The Appointment of Health Care Agent takes effect anytime the patient loses the ability to make his/her own health care decisions. Unlike the Living Will, the patient does not need to be terminally ill or suffering from an irreversible coma. Also, the Appointment of Health Care Agent can be effective immediately if so stated within the document.

What treatments are covered?

The Appointment of Health Care Agent document allows a patient to name an "agent" or "attorney-in-fact" with broad or specific powers to provide consent or refusal for any type of health care. 

Who can complete an Appointment of Health Care Agent?

Any adult of sound mind may complete an Appointment of Health Care Agent. Living Wills and Appointment of Health Care Agent are frequently prepared without the assistance of lawyers by using standard forms available from the State of Tennessee. The Appointment of Health Care Agent document must be witnessed by two adults or notarized.

Can an Appointment of Health Care Agent  be revoked?

An Appointment of Health Care Agent can be revoked at any time and in any manner, e.g., by the patient simply tearing up the Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care document, expressing orally the desire to revoke the document, or in writing by the patient. Health care professionals who witness such revocations should document them in the medical record.

What are some other differences between the Appointment of Health Care Agent and the Living Will?

The Living Will simply requires the withholding or withdrawal of life prolonging treatment whereas the Appointment of Health Care Agent names a specific an agent who is authorized to make decisions for the patient. Specific instructions should be given to the agent in the Appointment of Health Care Agent, but it is not required.

 

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