Information on Advance Directives
What is an Advance Directive?
Advance directives are legal documents that describe your treatment preferences during end-of-life situations. These legal documents give a voice to patients who are unable to speak for themselves. Unexpected end-of-life situations can happen at any age, so we recommend all adults have advance directives. Anyone 18 or older may prepare advance directives. Having written instructions can help reduce confusion or disagreement.
You can remain in charge of your healthcare, even after you can no longer make decisions for yourself by creating a document called an “Advance Care Plan.”
Living Will/Advance Care Plan
A “Living Will” is the term used in Tennessee’s prior law. In 2004, Tennessee law changed the name of the form “Living Will” to “Advance Care Plan.”
An advance care plan is a document that tells your doctor how you want to be treated if you are terminally ill or permanently unconscious. You can use this form to tell your doctor you want to be pain-free and comfortable at the end of your life. You can also use a living will/advance care plan to tell you doctor you want to avoid life-prolonging interventions such as cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), kidney dialysis or breathing machines. Other special instructions or limitations can also be included in your form.
Medical Power of Attorney
A Medical Power of Attorney is a term used in the State’s law prior to 2004. In the new law this is referred to as an appointment of health care agent. An appointment of health care agent is another type of advance directive that allows you to name a person to make health care decisions for you, if you are unable to make them for yourself..
How is the Appointment of Health Care Agent different from the Advance Care Plan?
An advance care plan only applies if you are terminally ill or permanently unconscious AND too sick to make decisions for yourself. An advance care plan only tells your doctor what you do not want unless you write in other specific instructions. It is a written record of decisions that you have made yourself.
On the other hand, the appointment of health care agent allows you to choose someone else to make healthcare decisions for you, in the event you are too sick to make them for yourself. This person is called your health care agent. Your agent can make any health care decision that you could make if you were able. A health care agent allows you to give specific instructions to your representative about the type of care you would want to receive.
The appointment of health care agent allows your decision maker to respond to medical situations that you might not have anticipated and to make decisions for you with knowledge of your values and wishes.
How can I get a copy of the Advance Directive Forms?
You may get copies from Morristown-Hamblen Healthcare System, or you can download the form at Tennessee.gov/health and click on “Advance Directive Forms and Information.” Morristown-Hamblen case management department can assist you with completing these documents upon your request.