You take good care of yourself, eat well, and exercise. In other words, you’re healthy and fully capable of making decisions.

But what will happen to you if you have an unfortunate accident and are rendered unconscious or left in a coma? Or you discover you have incurable cancer?

The time to make those medical care decisions is now, while you are able, and put them into what is called an Advance Directive (previously known as a living will).

What is An Advance Directive?

Under Virginia law, Advanced Directives both designate someone to be your representative for medical decisions and allow you to specify the type of care you want and/or don’t want.

The American Cancer Society simply defines an advance directive or advanced health care directive as

“a kind of legal document that tells the doctor your wishes about your health care.”

It can be general, offering a few directives and naming a proxy to make decisions on your behalf should you be unable to do so yourself. Or it may include specific instructions for your proxy to follow.

Selecting a Proxy

When you are incapable of making your own health care decisions, the person you designate as your proxy in your advance directive will follow the wishes you’ve laid out for your ongoing care.

They can do so either temporarily until you recover, like when you are in surgery or following an accident, or long-term, as in the case of a coma.

Making Decisions about Medical Care

Think about the type of medical care you’d like to receive in various circumstances, and state them in your advance directive.

Include the type of medical treatment you want in different scenarios, like a permanently-unconscious or vegetative state or a terminal illness. 

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Are you comfortable with the idea of artificial life support, like breathing or feeding tubes? 

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Do you want to undergo dialysis if it will prolong your life? 

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Do you approve of the administration of pain medications for comfort, even if you are unconscious?

We can help you think through the various scenarios to decide how you’d like to be treated and supported, and define those directives in a legal document.

Related: Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care

What Are Virginia’s Legal Requirements for an Advanced Directive?

An advanced directive must be,

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written by a competent adult,

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a written advance directive,

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signed in the presence of 2 subscribing witnesses or an oral declaration in the presence of a physician and 2 witnesses for those in a terminal condition,

An advanced directive is revocable at any time through three methods under Virginia law:

  1. signed and dated revocation in writing;
  2. physical cancellation or destruction of the advanced directive;
  3. oral expression of the intent to revoke to the attending physician.

Keep in mind that it is your responsibility to notify your attending physician about your advanced directive. A copy of your advanced directive should be provided to your primary physician, your attorney, your spouse, and another close family member, in case you become incapacitated. It should also be included in any estate planning documents.

Our office can help you draw up an advanced directive, and keep it on file in the case it is needed.

Create Your Advance Directive at the Law Office of Joshua E. Hummer

At the Law Office of Joshua E. Hummer, we care about your future, and can help individuals and families throughout the Northern Shenandoah Valley and Northern Virginia create the legal documents for advance directives as part of our estate planning practice.