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Proxy Directive vs Instruction Directive

What is the difference between a Proxy Directive and an Instruction Directive? Which one do you need? Keep reading to learn how to choose the right fit for you!

What happens when you need someone else to make your medical decisions for you? Though you may not give much thought to this scenario in your day-to-day life, it is something that you should plan for. And it’s an important part of any Estate Plan.

An accident, illness, or serious medical event like a stroke, aneurysm or heart attack can leave a person unconscious and unable to make important medical decisions regarding their care. Whether they are temporarily or permanently incapacitated, decisions will need to be made. Medical staff will need to know what that person’s wishes are: do they want every attempt at resuscitation to be made? How do they feel about being on life support? Is there anyone else who can make the call for them?  

They’re big decisions and these emergency events can happen at any time. When you’re making a Will, you should include these directives so that you and your loved ones are prepared in case of an emergency. Keep reading to learn about: 

What is a Proxy Directive? 

When someone does something for you by proxy, they are doing it in place of you, as a substitute for you. A Proxy Directive gives someone the power to make important medical decisions for you if you can’t do so yourself. For instance, whether you want to be placed on life support or not can be a decision that must be made, and may need to be made quickly. If you lose consciousness, are rushed to the hospital and need mechanical ventilation, this is considered being placed on life support. Should you be put on the ventilator or not? If you have given someone your Proxy Directive, they will be able to make this decision for you, in the moment. 

A Proxy directive should be given to someone who knows your feelings on health issues and medical interventions, and can take all of the factors of your life into consideration when making a decision. They will also have to be at the hospital or healthcare facility with you when the decision needs to be made. 

What is an Instruction Directive?  

An Instruction Directive puts your wishes into writing. If a lifesaving or end-of-life decision needs to be made while you are unable to consent to it, a doctor can refer to this directive and know what to do. For example, receiving CPR in a hospital or long-term care facility is not always a given. If you are in a medical facility and suffer sudden cardiac arrest, will a doctor or nurse rush to perform CPR on you? You might think so, but whether this lifesaving attempt is made or not can depend on your DNR (Do not resuscitate) status and if your medical providers have knowledge of this status. 

When you make an Instruction Directive, you will state what your personal wishes are regarding measures that can keep you alive or revive you, like CPR, defibrillation, blood transfusions, life support, and long-term care. An Instruction Directive allows you to instruct your doctor or medical team to carry out your wishes. 

The Difference Between a Proxy Directive and an Instruction Directive

When deciding between a Proxy Directive and an Instruction Directive, like many Estate Planning considerations, it depends on your wishes and your circumstances. When giving your Proxy Directive to someone – often someone close to you like a spouse, adult child, or parent – you should consider whether they will be able to be there to make the decision, if you trust them to uphold your wishes, if they will be able to make a good judgment call when taking medical and personal considerations into account, and what might happen in the instance of an accident where they were also injured. In other words, who would make the best decision for you if you can’t make it for yourself? 

When creating an Instruction Directive, you are planning ahead for a possible emergency. It puts your wishes down in writing. But medical decisions are not always black-and-white. The damage sustained from a medical event can vary, as can the chances of recovery and the level to which a person can be expected to recover. Life changes can also impact medical decisions: a person who wanted to every life-saving effort to be made when their children were young may no longer feel that way once they are elderly; a person who felt they would not want to be revived at the end of their life may feel differently if they have a heart attack at an unusually young age. 

Though the question of Proxy directive vs Instruction Directive isn’t always simple, one puts the decision-making in the hands of a loved one, the other lets you dictate your decisions beforehand.  Either directive will require you to consider how you feel about life and death, different medical scenarios and how you would want them to be dealt with, how your loved ones would be affected, and the chance of unknown, future variables that may come into play. Just as there will be times you’ll need to make changes to your Will, updating your medical directive sometimes may be called for as well.  

A Directive as Part of a Will

When you think of a Will, you might think of inheritance, valuables, and heirlooms. And that certainly is part of what this document is used for – passing down property from one person to their beneficiaries is often done through a Will. But a Will also covers other important decisions about your life and your Estate. When you make a Will, you’ll give someone your financial Power of Attorney, which allows them to make financial decisions for you and your Estate if you are unable to. You will want to include a medical directive – a Proxy Directive or an Instruction Directive – in your Will, so that if and when crucial healthcare decisions must be made, they can be made without question. 

Do you have more questions about choosing between a Proxy Directive vs an Instruction Directive? Are you ready to get started on your Will now? Let us help you – we make it easy to get all of your estate planning done online at Trust & Will. Get started today!

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