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How to make an advance health care directive work for you

It's doubtful that you'd want a doctor you've never met to make decisions about whether you live or die, or how you live or die. In fact, you may even to shudder to think about certain family members making those choices. Most people would rather make end-of-life decisions for themselves. Especially since in some cases, you may have moral or religious objections to medical treatments.

These are hard questions to ask ourselves: If I were in a coma, would I want doctors to sustain my life? If I couldn't feed myself or breathe for myself, would I want to be kept alive with a feeding tube or respirator? If it's hard for you to decide what you want, you can imagine the havoc of your loved ones seeing you go through this and having to discuss and figure out that answer together. Opinions may vary greatly, and in such a critical matter, passions can run high and cause permanent resentment.

There are three components of an advance health care directive: a living will, a medical power of attorney and, if you wish, a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order. This special power of attorney lets you designate a person to make medical decisions not stipulated in your health care directive, and the DNR would direct doctors not to revive you should your heart stop or you stop breathing.

While advance health care directives are an important part of elder law, accidents and illnesses can and do happen at any age, so it's a valuable document for any adult to have.

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