Advance Directives

What is an advance directive?

An advance directive is a document where you state your choices for important future health care decisions. You can also name someone to make those choices for you if you become unable to make decisions about your medical treatment. An advance directive allows you to be in control of the treatments you want. 

Advance directives allow people to make their wishes known when they become unable to make health care decisions. Under Nevada law, advance directives include two types of directives: the Living Will or “declaration” and the Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care. 

Living Wills 

A Living Will is a written declaration stating your wishes regarding the use of life-prolonging medical treatment. If you are well enough and competent, you tell your doctors what you do and do not want. In Nevada, the statutes say a Living Will may be used only if you are not able to make your own decisions, you have an incurable and irreversible condition and death is imminent. 

Nevada law gives you the option of completing two kinds of Living Wills or “declarations”. First is a declaration where you direct your attending physician to withhold or withdraw life-sustaining treatment. Second is a declaration appointing another person to make the decision for you about withholding life-sustaining treatment. When you complete a Power of Attorney for Health Care, it ultimately allows another person to make medical decisions for you. 

Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care 

What happens if you are incapacitated and your Living Will does not apply? With a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care, you name the person you want to make medical decisions for you if you become incapacitated and are unable to make your own decisions. A Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care is only in effect once it is determined that the patient no longer has the capacity to make their own decisions. Furthermore, a Durable Power of Attorney expires upon the patient’s passing. 

Common Questions About Advance Directives 

Do I have to write an advance directive? 

No. It is entirely up to you. Under the Federal Patient Self-Determination Act, a facility must provide the same care regardless of whether a person has an advance directive. 

Where can I get these documents? 

Nevada law specifies by statute the suggested forms of a Living Will and a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care. These statutory forms are usually available through your physician, other health care provider or attorney. For seniors in Las Vegas, you may also obtain these, at no charge, through the Southern Nevada Senior Law Program

Do I have to use the statutory forms? 

You may use or add the language of your own choosing, so long as the documents are in substantially the same form as provided in the statute. The Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care has several sections where the statute allows you to write in your own specific wishes. 

Can I change my mind? 

Yes. You may change or cancel these documents, at any time, in accordance with State law. Any change or cancellation should be written, signed, and dated in accordance with State law. 

Will I be treated for pain? 

Yes! Physicians and health care providers are required to provide treatment that is necessary for comfort or to alleviate pain. 

Please see your hospice social worker for a copy of the Nevada Advanced Directive and/or Five Wishes packet. 

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