Patients & Visitors

Advance Directives

Georgia’s New Advance Directive for Health Care

By Nancy White, RN, FACHE
Director, Senior Health Services & Government Relations
Coliseum Health System

Georgia’s General Assembly took a stand this year on the importance of Advance Directives.  Effective July 1, 2007, a new law establishes general principles governing the expression of health care decisions and the appointment of a personal agent.  This new legislation takes the extra step of providing a form for Georgia citizens to use.  The form is simple, written in layman’s language, and intended to encourage more citizens to voluntarily executive advance directives for health care.

Although you are not required to prepare an Advance Directive for Health Care, you should know that it serves as important preparation for the end of life.

The purpose of Advance Directives is to give you a voice in your own medical decisions when you cannot communicate.  As long as you can express your own choices, they cannot be used, and you may accept or refuse any medical treatment.  Advance Directives also can spare your loved ones the agony of being forced to make life and death decisions about you without your clear guidance.

Georgia’s new Advance Directive for Health Care, including its built-in instructions, covers six pages.  It combines the best features of the Living Will and Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care into one document.  (NOTE:  Any valid Living Will created between 3/28/86 and 6/30/07 remains valid until revoked.  Any valid Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care created before 6/30/07 is valid until revoked.  IF you choose to complete the new Georgia Advance Directive for Health Care, it will replace your former advance directives.)   

The new form has three parts.  Part One allows an agent to be appointed to carry out your health care decisions if you become unable to.  This was formerly the Durable Power of Attorney.  Part Two allows choices about withholding or removing life support and accepting or refusing nutrition and/or hydration.  This was formerly the Living Will.  Part Three allows one to nominate someone to be appointed Guardian, should a court determine one is necessary.

The only requirements for making an Advance Directive for Health Care is that you are of sound mind and are at least 18 years old or an emancipated minor.  The form provides specific instructions for witnessing it.  It also tells you how to revoke it, and what to do with the completed form.

For a complete reading of the new law and its accompanying form, go to http://www.legis.ga.gov/legis/2007_08/fulltext/hb24.htm. You may also obtain a copy of the form itself here or through local hospitals.

Remember, the Advance Directive for Health Care comes into effect when, and only when, you can no longer make decisions for yourself.  It only covers health care decisions.  It has nothing to do with your financial affairs.  And if you change your mind, it is easily changed or canceled.

Preparing your final wishes for health care is a real gift to loved ones.  People who have already faced end-of-life situations can tell you how hard it is.  They will also tell you how much they wish they’d known what their loved one wanted.  Completing Georgia’s new Advance Directive for Health Care may spare your family much heartache down the road.