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Oklahoma advance directives let you control medical choices

It is probably safe to assume that no one in Oklahoma ever enjoys thinking about or planning for the end of life. Studies, including one conducted recently by The Conversation Project, show many Americans realize medical directives are necessary but hesitate to follow through by creating the legal documents.

Researchers learned that over 90 percent of study participants understood the importance of relaying final health care instructions, but only 30 percent had discussed the matter with loved ones.

Incapacity can occur in old age, but the inability to communicate sometimes doesn't wait until you're a senior. Illness and accidents can take away the power to make decisions, temporarily or permanently. Who will speak for you about medical treatment, if you can't?

Without directions, doctors will do everything possible to save your life. Family members' involvement in your care may require the permission of a judge. The treatments or procedures you receive during incapacity are out of your control and in the hands of someone else, who may not know what you want.

Health care decisions can be made in advance of possible incapacity. With the proper legal documents, you can designate a proxy who will make medical choices for you in case you can't make them for yourself. You also may direct the treatments you receive and those you don't want at the end of life.

A health care power of attorney assigns the right to make medical choices on your behalf to another person. The individual you pick is likely to be a family member, although you may choose a proxy who is not a relative.

A living will dictates what treatments are acceptable to you during a terminal illness or an irreversible, incapacitated state, such as a coma. Living wills become effective only when a patient's condition is beyond hope.

Questions about the limitations of these agreements can be discussed with an estate planning attorney.

Source: Michigan Chronicle, "Having a say in your health care when it matters most" St. John Providence Health System, Dec. 18, 2013

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