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Using health care proxies and living wills in New Jersey

An advance medical directive, more commonly known as a living will, allows individuals to specify what type of medical treatment they wish to receive if they are unable speak or otherwise communicate.

In New Jersey, individuals have some flexibility regarding when they want their living wills to become active. People can also choose what life-saving medical devices they want used in various situations.

For example, individuals can decide whether they want food and fluids artificially administered to their bodies if they become brain dead. A living will also allow people to designate themselves as organ donors or to donate their entire body to anatomical study when they die.

Because it is not possible to predict or account for every medical situation in writing, there may be situations that arise that are not covered by your living will. In those situations, the living will is carefully considered, and family members can meet with medical professionals to determine the course of action that most closely follows the wishes in your living will.

Naming a health care representative to act on your behalf via a health care proxy can increase your control over medical care. To do so, you must sign a legal document known as a medical power of attorney that entitles a person of your choice to make medical decisions if you are uncommunicative, terminally ill or otherwise incapacitated.

It is important to choose a representative who will act on your best interests and keep your wishes in mind. Your representative should also have a firm grasp of one's medical condition and the treatment one has requested.

Source: CNN Money, "Living wills and health-care proxies"

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