“My family and I live in Georgia and are now planning for our elder care matters. We would like to know: What is an Advance Directive for Health Care and how implementing such a document can help us?"

Answer:  An Advance Directive is a written statement that is made in advance of (before) a serious illness or injury. An Advance Directive indicates your choices about how you want medical decisions made to be made about your health IF you are unable to make the choices on your own. Most people understand the term “Living Will” which is the earliest form of an Advanced Directive. Another common form of an Advance Directive is a “Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care.” Although these two documents share a common objective, they are different. People often ask their attorney if both are needed (possibly in an effort to save a few dollars on their Estate Planning fees). The way the documents were initially crafted by state legislatures, the answer is that you have better protection when you execute both documents. Now Georgia and many states are combining these documents into a single Advance Directive document. In Georgia that document is called the Georgia Advanced Directive for Health Care and it became effective on July 1, 2007.

The Georgia Advanced Directive for Health Care allows you to make your choices for your health care and to name someone to make those choices for you, IF you become unable to make decisions about your medical treatment. The law expressly recognizes the right of an individual to control all aspects of his or her personal care and medical treatment, including:

the right to insist upon medical treatment,
decline medical treatment, or
direct that medical treatment be withdrawn.

In other words, the Georgia Advanced Directive for Health Care enables you to have some control over your future medical care. You can say “yes” to treatment you want, or say “no” to treatment you do not want to have performed on you.

David E. Danta, Attorney at Law
Atlanta, Georgia 31141
Member of the national ElderCare Matters Alliance, Georgia chapter

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