Advance Directives and Living Wills
Advance directives resolve medical care questions for comatose or dying patients. The best way to be in control of medical treatment in such a situation is to record your preferences in advance.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are advance directives?
An advance directive is a document, written in advance of serious illness, stating your choices about medical treatment. It also can specify someone to make choices for you should you become unable to make decisions. Through advance directives, such as living wills and healthcare powers of attorney, you can make legally valid decisions about future medical treatment.
Are advance directives just for senior citizens?
Not exclusively. Federal law allows adults over 18 to make healthcare choices known to others in advance of illness or hospitalization. A severe illness or serious accident can happen at any age. Regardless of age, you are encouraged to consider signing an advance directive.
Can advance directives be changed?
Yes. These documents can be changed or revoked by you at any time. If you make changes, destroy all previous copies and provide the new version to your family, physician and attorney. If you wish to revoke an advance directive while receiving treatment, notify your primary physician or nurse.
After completing an advance directive, what should I do with it?
Copies of your advance directive should be given to someone who will know if you become seriously ill. You should also give a copy to your physician. Consider giving a copy to your minister, family members or close friends as well. If you have appointed an agent to make healthcare decisions for you, give a copy to them as well. Finally, consider carrying a card in your wallet stating that you have signed an advance directive and where it can be located.
In order for a hospital, nursing facility, home health agency or hospice program to honor the advance directive, you must provide a copy of it to someone at the hospital, nursing facility, home health agency or hospice program (a physician, nurse, social worker or chaplain).
What is the difference between an advanced directive and DNR/Allow Natural Death (AND)?
An advance directive is a document, written only by the patient, in advance of serious illness, stating your choices about medical treatment. On the advance directive document, Allowing Natural Death means that a patient does not want any medication, machines, or other medial procedures that may keep a patient alive but will not cure them or give them quality of life. If you have an advance directive, you can indicate the exact treatment procedures you wish and do not wish. This will not be put in place until you are diagnosed "incurable/irreversible." A DNR/AND order is written by the physician and consented for by patient or family. It is put in place at the time of the order written.
Where can I obtain an advance directive form?
You can obtain living will and healthcare power of attorney forms from us by clicking here or your attorney, or from the Medical Association of Georgia, the State Bar Association, or the Georgia Hospital Association. If you plan to sign the documents while receiving treatment with us, you (or your family) are responsible for ensuring witnesses (other than hospital personnel) are present when you sign the documents.
Where can I find more information on advance directives?
Pastoral Care, St. Joseph's Hospital: 912-819-2129
Pastoral Care, Candler Hospital: 912-819-6001
Please note, the Georgia Advanced Directive has replaced the living will document; however, a living will acts as guidance for health professionals to your wishes and is honored in Georgia. The five wishes document is also honored in Georgia.