A living will and medical power of attorney allow a person to put their medical and end of life wishes in writing.

In March 2012, Governor Gary Herbert signed a joint resolution encouraging all Utahns to make end-of-life decisions before a crisis. The University of Utah Center on Aging recommends that people of all ages fill out an advanced directive because of the possibility of an accident or illness. And hospitals and doctors usually ask patients if they have an advance directive.

Utah has made it easier and less intimidating to have end of life discussions with those closest to you and to put your wishes in writing. The Utah Advanced Health Care Directive form was established by statue in 2008. While you can write your own, the form was designed to work well for most people. The form and tool kit can be downloaded here. The instructions and tool kit can be overwhelming.

Part I is a Health Care Power of Attorney. It allows you to designate another person, or agent, to make health care decisions for you when you are unable to make them yourself. You can also choose an alternate person, if your first choice is unable or unwilling to make decisions for you. It is a good idea to talk with your agent about your values and wishes for your end of life care, should you need it.

Your chosen agent will be able to consent to or refuse any medical care for you. They can hire and fire health care providers; get copies of medical records; and ask for second opinions. You can authorize your agent to consent to your participation in medical research and organ donation.

Part II is a Living Will. You can choose to prolong life as long as possible, choose to not prolong life, let your agent decide or not express your preference. If you choose not to prolong life you can limit the ability of your health care provider or agent to withdraw life sustaining care.

Part III tells you how you can revoke or change this document. You can always change your agent and your choices about sustaining life. A decision you make while healthy about end of life care may change if you are diagnosed with a disease later in life.

In Part IV you make the directive legal. You will sign the document and you will need one person to witness the signing. The witness can not be related to you.

It is important for every adult to express their wishes in a legally binding document because everyone has the right to make their own health care decisions. Writing down your wishes allows you to have control over medical decisions or name someone you trust to speak for you if you cannot. Life is precious and unexpected illnesses or accidents can happen at any age. You will be helping your loved ones from the burden of decision making by planning ahead and signing a Utah Advanced Health Care Directive.

Utah Advanced Health Care Directive
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