The four things your health care agent can do under your Georgia Advance Directive for Health Care, sometimes referred to as a health care power of attorney, are: make treatment health care decisions for YOU, access YOUR private and protected health information, make end-of-life decisions for YOU, and make decisions about how YOUR remains are treated after you pass away.
A Georgia Advance Directive for Health Care is a legal document where you choose your health care agent. Generally, you choose one agent to serve at a time and you then name back-ups, also known as successor agents. Naming one person, rather than multiple, to serve at a time makes it clear who you want to have making decisions on your behalf. It eliminates any potential or actual confusion in your family AND in the health care professional community who will be interacting with your agent. Whether that agent can act immediately OR only if you are deemed incapacitated by at least one medical doctor qualified to make such opinion is 100% up to you. You decide that when you sign the document.
Whether it is immediate or triggered upon incapacity, your agent has only the authority you give them under the document. So what authority do people generally give?
First, your agent can make general treatment and health care decisions. Everything from whether to try a new diet or have surgery. They CANNOT override your decision so long as you have the mental ability to The four things your health care agent can do under your Georgia Advance Directive for Health Care, sometimes referred to as a health care power of attorney, are: make treatment health care decisions for YOU, access YOUR private and protected health information, make end-of-life decisions for YOU, and make decisions about how YOUR remains are treated after you pass away. your own decisions. So this document doesn’t give anyone the right to force you into a choice in health care. In reality, this document allows your agent to support and advocate what you want.
Second, your agent will have access to your private and protected health care information. You sign a HIPAA Release when you go to the doctors. This is generally so the doctor’s office can communicate private and protected health care information about you to an insurance provider so the doctor can be paid. But when you sign the Advance Directive, you are also giving your agent the ability to communicate with your doctor, a hospital, a pharmacist.
Third, your agent will advocate and make end-of-life decisions. What are end-of-life decisions? These are decisions that are made after at least one qualified medical professional has communicated to you or your loved ones that treatment options and medical procedures, if continued, will not cure you but will prolong the moment of your passing away. You can let your agent know, in the advance directive, what you want in the event you are unable to communicate at end-of-life. Your agent then would carry out your wishes, aka be your advocate.
Fourth, your agent will have authority to make decisions about what happens to your remains after you pass away. Whether you are buried or cremated is the major decision. In Georgia, unless there is consensus among “next of kin”, there must be written authority authorizing cremation of your remains. An advance directive is one way to ensure that if you wish to be cremated, you are cremated. Other important decisions around organ donation and authorizing autopsies is also part of this document.
Your Georgia Advance Directive for Health Care is an important document. The Georgia legislature updated the form and the legislation around this document not long ago. This document is now clearer and more straight forward than previous versions, even if it seems a bit sparse in communicating your health care wants and needs. With us moving beyond the last few years of heightened health concerns around COVID-19, you may be wondering what you could do for your family and/or prepare for a crisis such as this and my first recommendation would be to get an advance directive in place!
Give your family the gift of knowing exactly what you want in terms of: who is your decision maker, what do you want if end-of-life is near, how do you wish for your remains to be treated.
We help families put advance directives for health care in place. We help you walk through and understand these decisions. We encourage you to plan beyond your plan and around your plan to ensure that you communicate to all who you love what you want and do not want.