Advanced Directives Are No Help If You Can Find It

An advance medical directive gives instructions on the kind of medical care you would like to receive should you become unable to express your wishes yourself, and it often designates someone to make medical decisions for you. This is an extremely important document – but it won’t be of much value in an emergency if it’s tucked away in a safe deposit box or in a file cabinet where no one can easily find it.

It’s a good idea to carry a card in your wallet or purse saying that you have a directive, and how medical personnel can access it.  That is why all O'Bryan Law Firm clients who complete a Health Care Power of Attorney is given a laminated card with this vital information listed on it.  If you need an updated card, or an additional copy to give to your designated patient advocate, please call the office and we will be happy to mail one to you.

A wallet card is an excellent way to have your directive with you at all times.

A wallet card is an excellent way to have your directive with you at all times.

Another option is keeping a digital copy that is accessible at all times.  For instance, if you routinely carry a cell phone or tablet with you, you could upload your directive as a file on your device.

A directive won’t be of much value in an emergency if it’s tucked away in a safe deposit box or a file cabinet.

If you don’t typically carry such a device, but you have a child who does, you could ask the child to upload it to his or her phone or tablet. Your card could instruct medical personnel to contact your child. Your child would then be able to e-mail the directive to the doctors – even if the child is thousands of miles away at the time.

There are a growing number of software programs, apps and cloud-based options that offer to store health care and legal documents and make them available in an emergency. Also, about a dozen states have established online registries for advance directives.  Michigan is not currently one of these.  I would not pay any type of fee to use cloud based storage of your legal documents at this time.  I question the quality of the service, and the reliability.  I think a better option is simply having a wallet card.

But the most important step is to have an advance directive in the first place. Most Americans still don’t – and that can create agonizing quandaries for loved ones in a crisis.