Health care professionals have long encouraged adult patients to establish advance care directives early. This important estate planning document allows individuals to provide clear instructions about what types of life-sustaining treatments they do and do not want should they be unable to communicate their wishes due to injury or illness.
Unfortunately, only about a third of U.S. adults take the time to put their health care preferences in writing. The lack of an AHCD may result in caregivers taking extreme medical measures and may put family members in the difficult position of making a decision that could leave them feeling immense guilt and uncertainty.
Oregon’s advance directive options
Oregon’s advance directive form allows individuals to express their preferences for receiving tube feeding or other procedures that replace vital functions in the case that a patient:
- Is very close to death
- Has an advanced, progressive illness
- Has become permanently unconscious
- Is experiencing severe and permanent pain
The directive should indicate whether the individual prefers to receive life support, prefers to receive it if a knowledgeable health care provider advises it, or prefers not to receive it at all.
The form also allows people to designate a trusted health care representative to make decisions on their behalf if they can no longer communicate due to an illness, injury or mental incapacity. They may additionally indicate whether their representative should consider the instructions in the AHCD to be completely binding, or if a representative should decide what is best given the specific circumstances.
Older adults and those with chronic illnesses are more likely to have an AHCD, but caregivers recommend that anyone aged 18 or older complete one. While it is important to make medical wishes clear before aging issues arise, an unexpected accident or illness may strike at any time, making it essential to establish an advance directive before the worst happens.