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What are advance directives?

In the state of California, an Advance Health Care Directive combines living will, Natural Death Act Declaration and Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care into one document that allows you to state your health care desires and appoint a health care “agent” who will have legal authority to make health care decisions on your behalf should you ever become seriously ill or injured and unable to speak or make decisions for yourself.

An Advance Health Care Directive is a legally recognized document that outlines your health care wishes. Should you require medical care but are unable to speak or make decisions due to illness or injury, your family and medical care providers will follow your directive about refusing or accepting life-sustaining treatment, such as CPR, breathing machines or feeding tubes, in any situation. An Advanced Health Care Directive also allows you to state your wishes regarding organ or tissue donation.

Over the years, the number of people in the U.S. who say they have a living will has grown – from 12 percent in 1990 to 29 percent in 2005. Unfortunately that still leaves the majority of people vulnerable to the stress and anxiety of having to make critical medical decisions during health crisis situations. Do you know what your parent would want if he or she falls into a coma? What if you have cancer or a brain injury? Do you know who will make health care decisions for you?
Planning ahead for your health care, now while you are able to, is a gift that you can give to yourself and those that you love.

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