Who will make important healthcare decisions for you if you become unable to make them for yourself? How do you legally empower them to receive vital medical information from your physicians and make decisions on your behalf?

How do you ensure that this process can happen speedily when time is of the essence rather than going through lengthy and expensive legal proceedings to have you declared incompetent so that a healthcare agent can be named? And how do you ensure that your agent is making the decisions that you would choose if you were able?

In Georgia, the document you must sign to confirm your healthcare decisions is called the Georgia Advance Directive for Healthcare, which not only names agents to make those decisions, but also instructs the physician as to what your final wishes are.

It protects your right to refuse medical treatment that you do not want or to request treatment you do want, in the event you lose the ability to make decisions yourself. This document gives legal authority to these individuals to act on your behalf. Because of HIPPA laws, medical information about you cannot be given to anyone who does not have the legal authority to receive it.

Not even your next of kin has the authority to act for you if they do not have that legal permission to do so under this document.

The Georgia Advance Directive for Healthcare contains three parts, any or all of which may be filled out, plus a fourth signature page that MUST be filled out for any of the other parts to be effective.

Part One: Health Care Agent. This allows you to choose someone to make health care decisions for you. Your healthcare agent’s power becomes effective when your doctor determines that you are no longer able to make or communicate your healthcare decisions OR when you decide that you no longer want to make your own healthcare decisions. You may also have your healthcare agent make decisions after your death with respect to an autopsy, organ donation, body donation, and final disposition of your body.

Part Two: Treatment Preferences. This part allows you to state your treatment preferences if you are unable to communicate your treatment preferences and your physician and one other physician determine that you either have a terminal condition or are in a state of permanent unconsciousness. If you designated a healthcare agent in Part One, your agent will be guided by your written Treatment Preferences as well as any other factors you may have listed in section 4 of Part One.

Part Three: Guardianship. This part allows you to nominate a person to be your guardian should one ever be needed.

Part Four: Signatures. This part must be filled out to make any of the three other parts effective. This document will be legally binding only if the person completing it is a competent adult at least 18 years old (or a legally emancipated youth) and signed in the presence of two adult witnesses. The witnesses may not be your healthcare agent, someone
who will inherit from you or benefit financially from your death, or someone directly involved in your healthcare. Only one witness may be an employee, agent, or medical staff member of the facility in which you are receiving healthcare. Note: You do not need to notarize your Georgia Advance Directive for Health Care.

A free downloadable copy of the Georgia Advance Directive is available HERE. Fill out a copy, sign it as instructed, keep a copy in your files, and give copies to your agent(s) and family members.