Community Coalition for End of Life Care

Articles

Governor Lynch signs HB 656: Laws surrounding Advance Directives Improved

Have you written a Living Will and/or Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care?

This year, after 2 years of intensive work by professionals and community members, Governor Lynch signed HB 656, a bill clarifying and improving laws surrounding advance directives. But despite many efforts, the majority of New Hampshire residents still do not have advance directives?

Why?

There are many barriers to completing these documents including a fear of thinking about death or near death situations, a misunderstanding that such a document might lead to medical caregivers not providing appropriate care, or just lack of time to get around to it.

Completing these documents allows you to gain control over decision making, not lose it. The documents only come into effect if you cannot voice your wishes AND:
a) you are permanently unconscious and will not recover OR
b) you are near death and without support, you will imminently die

Two medical providers (2 physicians or a Nurse Practioner and a physician) must determine that you are near death or permanently unconscious

These documents have no legal merit if you are able to tell caregivers what you want. Medical providers will always follow what you direct them to even if it conflicts with a written Advance Directive.

The document has 2 parts: a durable power of attorney and a living will.

The Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care designates a person or persons to make medical decisions for you. It does not assign control of any our your money, finances, or assets.

The new document allows options to choose to have or not have:
a) artificial fluids or feeding tubes
b) a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order
c) an option that everything possible be done to keep you alive

The living will allows you to state you do not want artificial prolongation of life in the circumstances listed above

You may also write down religious beliefs, statements of values or specific instructions about other medical procedures such as dialysis, antibiotics, hospitalization.

By not completing advance directives, you are choosing not to state your wishes about care near the end of life. Unless you have involved family or significant others who all agree, the only legal solution would be that the court be asked to appoint a guardian to make decisions for you. This process is difficult and terribly burdensome for family members. Also, making life and death decisions, without clear direction, can be extremely difficult for family.

Completing an advance directive allows you to take control of decision making, have input into the type of care (whatever it may be) you want, and ease the burden on family members. Take the time. Talk to your medical provider. Talk to your family. Complete an advance directive. You can always update it, change it, add to it.

Community Resources | Caregivers in Action
Community Coalition for End of Life Care
NH Catholic Charities | Home