Advance Health Care Directives

In Utah, the Advance Health Care Directive is a tool to designate a health care agent that goes into effect upon your inability to make or communicate healthcare decisions, including decisions about end-of-life care. And, while this is a useful tool for you to have, you might also consider obtaining one for any of your aging relatives who might not be able to obtain one for themselves.

By having an Advance Health Care Directive, you are choosing the person who gets to make those health care decisions including the end of life care decisions. If you fail to appoint someone, the court will have to appoint a guardian, which may create a costly legal process. This appointed person is making a surrogate decision. That means they are stepping in your shoes and making the decisions that you would make on your own if you were capable to do so.

The surrogate decision should be based on input from you and based on specific preferences prior to the loss of health care decision making capacity. It should be based on the understanding of your health care preferences and what you would want under the circumstances.

So, who would be the best person suited for this surrogate decision? It should be someone who:

  1. Meets the legal criteria in your state to act as an agent.

  2. Is willing to speak on your behalf; able to act on your wishes and separate their own feelings from yours.

  3. Lives close by or could travel to be at your side.

  4. Knows you well and understands what is important to you.

  5. Can handle the added responsibility.

  6. Will talk with you NOW about sensitive issues and will listen to your wishes.

  7. Will likely be available long into the future.

  8. Would be able to handle conflicting opinions between family members, friends and medical personnel.

  9. Can be a strong advocate in the face of an unresponsive doctor or institution.

Things to think about while preparing a Health Care Directive are your: (a) values; (b) priorities; (c) meaning of life; and (d) quality of life. Are there certain conditions that are worse than death such as being an amputee? How do you weigh your odds of survival in certain procedures such as brain surgery? It’s never fun to think of things like this, but by doing so and informing people of your decisions and appointing a person, you are preparing for the worst-case scenario and your wishes will be followed.

A Health Care Directive may be revoked and changed. If revoked, destroy the document and inform everyone that you have revoked that Health Care Directive. Should you wish to change the Health Care Directive, destroy all old copies, create a new one, distribute the new copies to all involved.

Some really important tips for the Health Care Directives are:

  • Keep the originals in an easily accessible safe place.

  • Give a copy to your doctor.

  • Give a copy to your appointed health care agent and any alternate agents.

  • Keep a record of who is in possession of this document.

  • Talk to your appointed health care directive and family members about your advance directives and your health care wishes now. This ensures that your family members understand your wishes which will avoid conflict and potential guilty feelings.

  • Carry something on you that indicates you have an advance directive and that identifies your appointed health care agent and where the copy of the document can be found.

  • Keep a copy with you when you are traveling.

Finally, you should reevaluate your health care directive upon a diagnosis of a disease that may significantly alter your life, after a change of marital status, or every ten years to reflect your new values and wishes.

Again, while an Advance Health Care Directive will be helpful to you in the future, you might have an elderly relative who is in need of one right now. So, whether you need one for yourself or for a loved one, contact us today at (385) 334-4030 or send an email to to set up your free consultation to determine your specific needs.