Legacy Law Group Of Northern Virginia, PLLC.

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8567 - D Sudley Road Manassas, VA 20110

Legacy Law Group Of Northern Virginia, PLLC.

Call For A Consultation

(703) 492-9955

Office Location

8567 - D Sudley Road Manassas, VA 20110

Legacy Law Group Of Northern Virginia, PLLC.

What Is An Advance Medical Directive And How Is It Related To A Living Will?

  • By: David B. Wilks
  • Published: February 7, 2019
What Is An Advance Medical Directive And How Is It Related To A Living Will?

Becoming more common in the last few years, an advance medical directive – as well as a living will, which is a species of the directive – delineates your wishes primarily concerning medical care in the case of a terminal condition or severe incapacitation. The purpose is to clearly indicate what you want before you are unable to make decisions and articulate your wishes. So it is, at bottom, an act of love because it relieves your loved ones of the anguish of having to make (usually) very tough end-of-life decisions on your behalf.

Advance medical directives and living wills can be general or very specific. They are legal documents that most often contain your directives for medical-care preferences, providing legal guidance for caregivers, doctors, and other medical professionals. The trend lately, however, has been to move away from an exclusive medical-care focus to include religious concerns, personal goals and values, and health outcomes.

What an Advance Medical Directive Is and Does

An advance medical directive usually takes one of three forms: living will, power of attorney, health-care proxy. Because the aim is to state what you want for your medical care when you are unable to make those decisions yourself, the directive may:

  • Specify what you – the person executing the directive, known as the declarant – do and do not authorize with respect to your health care.
  • Appoint an agent or similar authorized third party to make healthcare decisions for you, the declarant.
  • State your wishes concerning tissue, organ, and body donation.

More specifically, the scope of a living will (one form or species of the advance medical directive) often comprises pain relief, artificial hydration and feeding, CPR, ventilators, and DNR. It also usually contains a statement to the effect that if your physician determines that your condition is irreversible and/or terminal, you do not want to receive life-sustaining measures that would only prolong the dying process.

Advance Medical Directive in Virginia

Executing Advance Medical Directive

Virginia law specifies that for an advance medical directive to be a legally binding document, the declarant (you) has to sign it in the presence of two witnesses who also sign it. But an oral statement of your wishes may also be legally binding if you still have the capacity to make an informed decision and the attending physician has diagnosed you with a terminal condition. An oral advance medical directive like this must be made in the presence of the attending physician and two witnesses.

Notice of Advance Medical Directive/Living Will

You also need to be aware that for the document to be fully binding in Virginia, you (the declarant) must provide notice to your attending physician that you have completed an advance medical directive. The physician then has to make a copy of the directive and include it among your medical records. Further, if you submit your directive to the Advance Health Care Directive Registry, you are responsible for making sure your physician, legal representative, and other key people can access the directive.

Powers Granted to Agents

An advance medical directive can also authorize an agent to act on your behalf in making decisions and taking whatever actions are necessary to carry out your stated wishes. Your agent’s authorized powers can include (among many other possibilities):

  • Consenting to/refusing or withdrawing consent to any kind of medical treatment
  • Hiring and firing health care providers
  • Requesting and obtaining your medical information and records
  • Consenting to disclosure of your medical information in order to carry out your wishes
  • Authorizing your admission to and transfer from a hospital, hospice, or nursing home
  • Making visitation-related decisions

It really is wise to prepare for the worst now with a well thought-out and carefully crafted advance medical directive and a living well. As you can see, though, the whole thing can be very confusing and highly complex. At Legacy Law Group of Northern Virginia, we specialize in the areas of living wills, power of attorney, and estate planning. Contact us for more information by calling (703) 492-9955 or using our online contact form to discover more about how we can help you make a tough time easier for your loved ones.

David B. Wilks, Esq.

David Wilks has practiced law in Northern Virginia and
Prince William County for more than thirty years as
a tax lawyer by training and education. Read More