End-Of-Life Planning In Georgia: Why You Need It
Periodically, end-of-life care becomes a popular, sometimes controversial topic in the media. You may remember:
- The family of Terry Schiavo struggling to decide on her medical treatment after many years in a coma in what became a very public battle
- Sarah Palin’s famous designation of a Medicare end-of-life planning proposal as including “death panels”
- A discussion of the cost of end-of-life care as related to health-care reform
Despite these instances, many in the public are unaware of what end-of-life planning can accomplish. Generally, end-of-life planning includes having a document that clearly specifies the kind of care you want if you are unable to convey that information to doctors. The particular instruments used to accomplish this vary slightly depending on what state you live in but generally fall under the rubric of “advance care directives.” They are also known as health care directives, living wills or physician’s directives.
Advance Care Directives
Know that you have the right to choose your own medical treatment – what procedures you wish to undergo and procedures you do not want to undergo, even if later you become incapable of stating those wishes.
Georgia law recently changed to streamline how to accomplish this. Previously, a Georgia resident would use a Living Will to state wishes regarding medical care, do-not-resuscitate orders and other medical information, such as where the individual would want medical treatment. A Durable Medical Power of Attorney would name an “agent” of the individual, usually a trusted family member or friend, who could give medical providers information on what the incapacitated person would want for medical treatment and care.
As of 2007, this information can be combined in an Advance Directive for Healthcare. Those who have created a Living Will and Durable Medical Power of Attorney will still have those documents recognized as valid, but the new advance directive is a more streamlined and clearer option for many who wish to plan for their medical futures.
Most people experience the end of life in a medical facility. By providing loved ones with the knowledge of how you would like to be treated by creating an Advance Directive for Healthcare, you provide peace of mind for yourself and the most important people in your life.
While everyone should have an Advance Directive for Healthcare, other legal instruments may be necessary. Some individuals may find long-term care planning or a special needs trust appropriate, for example. An experienced estate planning and elder law attorney can provide you with the best way to ensure you are treated as you wish at the end of life.