Legal documents can help smooth rough times

PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- When you are facing serious medical concerns, it can be a very stressful time for you and your family. There is even a possibility of conflict between family members and health care providers.

Two important legal documents that Air Force members may want to consider in advance - to reduce the stress - are health care powers of attorney and advance medical directives. The legal office can help you prepare either document separately or together, often along with a will.

A Durable Health Care Power of Attorney is a document used to appoint an individual to act as your agent with respect to all health care matters. The document does not expire, but only becomes active if you are unable to make informed decisions regarding medical treatment options.

An Advance Medical Directive (also known as a "Living Will") is another document separate from your will that provides instructions to your health care provider as to what you want done in the event that you become incapacitated and are in a terminal condition.

This is your chance to tell your doctor if you do not want life support, artificial feeding, organ transplants, or blood transfusions to help keep you alive when you are past the point of recovery.

You should review your documents from time to time, especially when there is a change in your health or family status. The legal office is ready to assist in answering any questions on wills, living wills and other legal issues.