Health Care Advance Directive: 7 Legal Myths and Facts

We often think about the physical aspect when we think about health. However, health also includes mental and social aspects. Good health allows individuals to live fulfilling lives and participate in activities they enjoy. However, maintaining good health can be challenging.

As people age or encounter health problems, it gets harder to maintain good health. It is even worse when you lead a healthy lifestyle only to realize you have a life-threatening disease. In most cases, these diseases go undetected for a long time. Other times, people get into accidents that change their lives.

Therefore, we are never certain about what life holds; we can only prepare. One of the most common ways to do this is through estate planning. Contact your estate planning lawyers and inquire about the available estate planning solutions. This will ensure a smooth succession when you pass on.

The other way to prepare for your future is through creating health care directives. Health care directives are legal documents that express a person’s wishes concerning medical treatment. The directives take effect when the person is unable to make health decisions themselves.

Legal Myths And Facts on Health Care Directive

The most common directives include a living will and a durable power of attorney. A living will outline the type of treatment to administer when the person is terminally ill. A durable power of attorney designates a person to make medical decisions when the individual is in no condition to make decisions.

Healthcare directives are important because they express the values and beliefs of a patient. This can be comforting for the person’s family, and even prevent conflict about what treatment to administer.

Therefore, you must discuss your healthcare preferences with your kin. It will ensure they understand and respect your wishes. Talking about it also presents an opportunity to clear any myths or legal concerns they may have about your preferences. Some of the myths associated with advance directives include:

  1. You Need a State’s Statutory Form for Your Advance Directive to Be Valid

Some states have statutory forms you can fill out to relay your advance directives. However, you do not have to use the form for your advance directives to be valid. You can type out the instructions and prepare your own written document. 

The document is presentable as a valid advance directive. Additionally, ensure you make any necessary signatures that may strengthen its validity when challenged.

  1. If You Appoint a Financial Power of Attorney, You Need a Separate Medical Power of attorney 

Contrary to popular belief, the individual given the financial power of attorney can be the same person given the medical power of attorney.  This is because the appointment of each individual lies in different documents and is independent of the other and thus, you can appoint the same person.

However, be careful with such a move. Ensure that the individual has your best interest at heart and shares your values.

  1. An Advance Directive Tells a Doctor “Do not treat”

This is False. Healthcare advance directives do not tell a doctor not to treat a patient. They only inform the doctor that a patient is willing to try and accept medical attention up to a certain point. The myth stems from the fact that most patients often opt not to receive further treatment when death is near.

However, even though advance directives limit the doctor from administering any life-sustaining procedures or treatments, they have to care for you. This type of care includes treatments that control pain, maintain comfort, or uphold your dignity.

  1. Advance Directives Are Legally Binding and Doctors Have to Follow Them

Doctors can refuse to follow your health care advance directives if they have an objection. This objection can stem from their conscience or a medical perspective. Your wishes may be medically inappropriate. Your wishes merely give doctors and your attorney immunity if they follow your wishes.

Therefore, a doctor who refuses to follow your directives must transfer you to a doctor or healthcare provider willing to comply. To avoid such an incident, ensure you discuss your wishes with healthcare providers beforehand. An estate planning attorney is also in a position to assess if your wishes are legally appropriate.

  1. Naming a Health Care Proxy Nullifies Your Power to Make Your Own Decision

Naming a health proxy does not take away your power to make medical decisions. You reserve the right to decide, and you can override their decision. This is as long as you are still competent. 

It is prudent to appoint your healthcare proxy early and notify your family about them. This is because, in difficult times, families often argue about the best course of treatment, and their decision may go against your wishes. 

Therefore, identify your healthcare proxy and discuss your goals and values. They should also be somebody that knows you well and has your best interests at heart. Furthermore, they should be confident and competent in decision-making.

  1. Talking to Your Family or Doctor is not Legally Effective

This is a misconception, so it is false. You can communicate your wishes orally, and they may be respected or not. This is because a document can be legally effective, but there is no guarantee your wishes will be respected.

Discuss your wishes with your family doctor or family so that they help you create a sound advance directive. This type of communication can also supplement your written advance directives if you want to make any changes.

  1. Your AdvanceDirective Only Works in Hospitals

On the contrary, an advance directive is effective in institutions like nursing homes and healthcare facilities. Most of these institutions have policies in place that accommodate advance directives. You should check with the facility and inform them of the advance directives, in case of hospitalization. 


We often strive to stay in good health, but it is not always guaranteed so it is better to plan for when things go wrong. Most people begin with planning their estate and preparing the healthcare advance directives. One of the main processes involved is picking a healthcare proxy.

There are several legal myths associated with advance directives however, that should not stop you. Contact your family doctor and a legal representative to help you write your advance directive. This will help you create medically sound directives to guide doctors when you are incapacitated.

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