What is a Living Will and Advance Directive? Do I need both?
A living will is a document that can be used to tell your doctor and family the medical care you would want to receive if you are unable to speak for yourself. In Oregon, a living will is called an Advance Directive (i.e. you are providing medical directions in advance) and Oregon does not use the term “living will.” Through your Advance Directive you appoint another person as your healthcare representative to make medical decisions on your behalf if you cannot communicate your own desires.
Your Advance Directive can let people know what treatments or procedures should be withheld or taken in the event that you cannot make decisions on your own behalf. The document also provides instructions on whether you want life-prolonging treatment administered in the event of a terminal condition, such as a coma or persistent vegetative state (PVS).
Do I need an Advance Directive?
Yes, everyone in Oregon should have an Advance Directive. If someone has an Advance Directive in place, their wishes are already known by their doctors and healthcare representative when medical decisions need to be made. This means there are fewer conflicts, less stress on everyone involved, and fewer errors made by all parties involved because they’re following correct procedures instead of having to guess what might have been intended by the patient (or even worse: guessing incorrectly).
How do I choose someone to make medical decisions for me if I can’t make them myself?
Choosing who will make medical decisions for you can be a difficult task. It’s important to choose someone that you trust, as well as someone who has the ability and willingness to make difficult decisions on your behalf. The best person to do this is someone who knows you well and understands what you would like, so they can make choices based on what they know about you.
It may also help to look outside of the family circle: friends or even professional caregivers are often great candidates for this role. As long as they are willing and able, it doesn’t hurt to ask them!
I am unmarried but in a committed relationship, do I need an Advance Directive?
Yes! Having an Advance Directive in place is especially important for unmarried couples. If you are in an unmarried relationship, without having a valid Advance Directive your partner will not have the ability to advocate for you or make medical decisions on your behalf. In fact, that person will not even be able to discuss your care with doctors and may not be allowed to visit you in the hospital.
With a valid Advance Directive in place, you can guarantee that the proper people will be involved in your medical care.
Can I change my Advance Directive?
Yes! You can change your Advance Directive whenever you want to. It is common that overtime people may change their mind about the type of treatment they would like to receive or who they would like to make these decisions.
In Oregon, the Advance Directive form is set by statute (ORS 125.527), this means that the form is the same whether you get it from an attorney, from your doctor, a medical clinic, a hospital, or online from the Oregon Health Authority.
This means that the form is easy for people to change at any time without the use of an attorney. To be valid the changes must be in writing and the document must be either notarized or two witnesses much watch you sign your document.
Do doctors have to follow my Advance Directive?
Medical providers will do their best to follow your recorded wishes regarding the care you would like to receive. Having an Advance Directive in place, alerts medical providers as to what treatment you would like to receive.
What should I include in my Advance Directive?
The Advance Directive form in Oregon allows you to indicate if you would like life sustaining treatment if you are in a terminal condition, an advance progressive illness, or permanently unconscious. Additionally, in Oregon the Advance Directive form allows you space to include specific instructions to loved ones about your values, key considerations for your care, spiritual and religious beliefs, and the places where you would like to receive care.