Planning Ahead May Be Wise Move

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Mississippi will no longer accept a living will as a legal document. Instead, something called an Advanced Directive is required to make sure that your medical wishes are followed.

In 1991, the Patient Self Determination Act made clear that a patient must be informed of the right to participate in his own health care decisions, including treatment after he can no longer speak for himself.

"There's been so much drama in the news with things that happen when you are on your death bed and decisions that have to be made," said Courtney Hall, marketing director at Riley Hospital. "We just kind of want to educate the public on how they can help their families not have to make those tough decisions."

That's what Merle Jeffares was trying to do when she signed her Advanced Directive.

"I just wanted to be sure that my children had it as easy as they could have it," said Jeffares.

It's something that most of us don't want to consider: who would make the decisions, and would they follow your wishes if you were critically ill and couldn't think or answer for yourself?

An Advanced Directive is a set of instructions telling your doctor what kind of care you would like to have if you become unable to make medical decisions. In Mississippi, it's called a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care.

"This allows an individual to name who they want to make their healthcare decisions for them in the event they cannot. It allows them to define whether or not they want to be put on life support, whether they would want artificial feedings, if that was the only thing that would keep them alive, and what they want in terms of pain management," said Diane Entrekin, director of education at Riley Hospital.

The form is free and available on the Mississippi State Department of Health website. It only needs to be printed, filled out and witnessed or notarized. It then becomes a legal representation of your wishes.