An Advanced Directive for Health Care is a written document authorized under Georgia law that allows you to name a health care agent, and to express in writing what your preferences are about the administration of medical procedures in the event that you are not able to communicate those preferences on your own, because you are too ill or too badly injured.

An Advanced Directive gives your agent the authority to make decisions about your health care, including whether to admit or discharge you from any medical facility, ask for, consent to, or reuse medical treatment, and contract on your behalf for medical treatment. In addition, your agent can be granted authority to make decisions after your death about autopsy, organ donation, body donation, and the final disposition of your remains. Your health care agent is also permitted to access, copy, and consent to disclose your medical records under both HIPAA and Georgia law.

Your health care agent’s obligation is to use reasonable care for your benefit, and to use the granted powers in a way that, in his or her judgment, is consistent with your intentions and desires.

An Advanced Directive also allows you to clearly express your desires about the administration of life saving treatment if you are terminal or permanently unconscious, the administration of nutrition or fluids via tube, the use of a ventilator if you need assistance to breathe, the administration of CPR, or the use of pain medication. The information in an Advanced Directive about your treatment preferences is critical to your medical providers in the event that end-of-life planning becomes necessary.

An Advanced Directive also allows you to name your guardian in the event that you are unable to manage your own affairs and a court has to appoint one for you.

Advanced Directives combine the features of two prior documents under Georgia law, the living will, and the durable power of attorney for healthcare. If you already have a living will or a durable power of attorney for healthcare, then those documents remain valid, and are not affected by the Georgia Legislature’s adoption of the Advanced Directive in 2007.

The Advanced Directive can be filled out in parts, in other words, you can name your healthcare agent without necessarily setting out your specific treatment preferences in writing, and vice versa.

Advanced Directives must be signed and dated by you in the presence of two witnesses. Both witnesses must be adults of sound mind. The witnesses do not have to be together or present with you when you sign the document. Not everyone is allowed to witness your Advanced Directive, however. Your health care agents, your heirs, or a person who is directly involved in your medical care, may not be witnesses to your Advanced Directive.

If you need an Advanced Directive, or you have a relative who may need assistance in preparing one, then please contact us. We can help you.