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Types of Advance Directives

As a patient, you have the right to make your health care decisions. Here are some of the most commonly asked questions regarding the types of advance directives.

Question: What is a health care power of attorney?

Answer: The health care power of attorney is a written statement in which you name another person, called an agent, to make health care decisions for you in the event you are unable to make these decisions. We encourage you to discuss your preferences with this person.

Question: What if you do not have health care power of attorney?

Answer: Arizona law specifies who will make decisions for you if you do not have a health care power of attorney. The following is the list of persons, in descending order of priority, who may make decisions for a patient who lacks capacity. They are:

  • The patient’s spouse (unless the patient and spouse are legally separated);
  • Adult children of the patient (consent of the majority of adult children reasonably available for consultation must be sought);
  • A parent of the patient;
  • If the patient is unmarried, the patient’s domestic partner if no other person has assumed financial responsibility for the patient;
  • A brother or sister of the patient;
  • A close adult friend who has exhibited special care and concern for the patient, who is familiar with the patient’s health care views and desires and who is willing and able to become involved in the patient’s health care and act in the patient’s best interest; or
  • The patient’s attending physician, if any other individual listed above cannot be located. If the surrogate is the patient’s attending physician, the physician may make health care treatment decisions only after consulting with and obtaining the recommendations of an institutional ethics committee. If not possible, the physician may make decisions only after consulting a second physician who concurs with the physician’s orders.

Question: What is a living will?

Answer: A living will is a written statement describing the kind of health care that you want or don’t want if you can no longer make your own health care decisions. It can either provide guidance or give specific instructions about your wishes. A living will may direct doctors to withhold, withdraw or continue life-sustaining procedures. For example, a living will can tell your doctors whether you want to be fed or given fluids through tubes if you cannot communicate with them directly.

Regardless of whether you have someone with health care power of attorney or rely on a surrogate, you should consider preparing a living will document to provide them assistance. Living wills are a gift to your loved ones, who will know and carry out your wishes. In the absence of a living will, families often feel guilt when the decision is made to end treatment. With a living will, the family has the comfort of knowing your wishes were followed.

Question: What is mental health care power of attorney?

Answer: The mental health care power of attorney is a written statement in which you name another person to make mental health decisions for you should a psychiatrist or psychologist determine that you are unable to make these decisions.

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