Q: When I went into the hospital for surgery recently, I was asked if I had any "advance directives." What, exactly, are advance directives?
A: Advance directives are documents, signed by you and properly witnessed or notarized, that set forth your health care instructions to doctors and others to be used when you cannot speak for yourself. Advance directives are set forth in a health care power of attorney and a living will.
Q: Why are there different advance directive documents? Do I need more than one?
A: Each document has a different purpose, so, depending upon your situation, you may need more than one. For example, a living will tells health care professionals the kind of care you would want if you could not make your wishes known and you were terminally ill or permanently unconscious. A health care power of attorney allows you to name someone to make health care decisions for you if you become unable to do so.
Q: What about DNR orders?
A: A DNR (Do-Not Resuscitate) order differs from other advance directives because it is written in your medical records and must be signed by a physician. It allows you and your doctor to provide instructions about your end-of-life treatment, including the circumstances under which you would not want to be resuscitated.
Q: How can I plan to make an anatomical gift at the time of my death?
A: You can make an anatomical gift by registering as an organ, eye and/or tissue donor through the Ohio Donor Registry. You can declare your wish to donate organs, eyes and/or tissue when receiving or renewing your driver's license or state identification card at the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV). You can also join the registry online at www.ohiobmv.com or through a mail-in Ohio Donor Registry form.
Q: Can I make my wish to become an organ donor known through an advance directive?
A: Yes. You can indicate that you wish to make an anatomical gift through your living will, but your name should also be included in the Ohio Donor Registry, because that is the database through which Ohio organ and tissue donors are identified at the time of death.
Q: If I have old advance directives, are they still valid?
A: As long as the required legal language is included in your advance directives, the older forms are still valid. However, if it has been a while since you last reviewed your advance directives, you should consult your attorney to make sure that your wishes are still accurately reflected.
Q: Where can I get these documents?
A: Your attorney can prepare these documents and can help you tailor them to meet your specific needs. Also, you may obtain a copy of suggested forms by mailing a request along with $3 to the Midwest Center for Education, 855 S. Wall St., Columbus, OH 43206 or download the forms through http://www.midwestcarealliance.org/aws/MCA/pt/sp/livingwills.
This “Law You Can Use” column was provided by the Ohio State Bar Association (OSBA). It was prepared by Alan S. Acker, a Columbus attorney and chair of the Advance Directives Committee responsible for preparing the 2001 forms.