BY MARY E. VANDENACK
There are two types of Advance Directives in Nebraska. There is a Declaration (commonly referred to as a Living Will) and a Health Care Power of Attorney. Different states have different options regarding health care directives.
Health care power of attorney
When you execute a Health Care Power of Attorney, you name someone else (your “Agent”) to make health care decisions on your behalf when you are “incapable” of making your own health care decisions. The Health Care Power of Attorney does not require that you be terminally ill or in a persistent vegetative state for your agent to be able to act for you.
You are considered “incapable of making health care decisions when you cannot understand and appreciate the nature and consequences of health care decisions or cannot communicate in any way an informed health care decision.
A health care decision is defined to include consent, refusal of consent, or withdrawal of consent to health care. Health care means any treatment, procedure or intervention to diagnose, cure, care for, or treat the effect of disease, injury and degenerative condition. Health care decision does not include the withdrawal or withholding of the usual provision of nutrition and hydration or the withdrawal or withholding of life sustaining procedures unless you specifically authorize or direct your agent to make such decisions.
The person you designate as your Agent has a duty to act consistently with your stated desires. If your wishes on an issue are not stated, your Agent has a duty to act in a manner consistent with your best interest. You can include as many directions as you desire in a health care power of attorney.
Choose an agent that you trust to follow your wishes. Share your feelings with your agent before they will be called upon to act. You can choose co-agents.
Declaration (The Nebraska Living Will)
A Declaration is the document that most people know as the “living will.” The living will comes into effect when you are terminally ill or in a persistent vegetative state and unable to make your own decision concerning life sustaining treatments. The attending physician has notified a member of your family or guardian of your diagnosis.
You may specify whether you desire to receive life sustaining treatments, whether you desire artificial nutrition or hydration, and whether you want total relief from pain regardless of whether it shortens you life. regardless of what the Declaration state, the attending physician has a duty to continue providing treatment for your comfort and alleviation of pan.
A Health Care Power of Attorney names an Agent to make decisions for you. A Declaration does not. The “right to die” provision of a Declaration can be incorporated into your health care power of attorney. By doing so, you can ensure that your end of life decisions can have effect even if your agent in unavailable.
Consider end of life decisions while well
It is best to give thought to health care decisions while you are well. Communicate your thoughts on health care to your family and friends.
metroMAGAZINE, July 2010