Advance health directives let you say what you want to happen and not happen if you are ever in an extreme medical situation and unable to speak for yourself. They usually include specific instructions and name a person you want making decisions for you.

Anybody can also make one that deals only with behavioral or mental health in case they want more control if they are ever committed or treated for mental health reasons.

PADs recognized by law like other directives

The law recognizes these are psychiatric advance directives (PADs) the same as directives dealing with any other medical condition.

PADs can address a wide variety of issues, but most deal with issues of:

  • Hospital admission
  • Medication
  • Electroconvulsive treatment

Health care providers must follow a PAD unless it would clearly endanger the patient.

In fact, federal law requires all health care providers, including psychiatric hospitals, to offer patients a chance to fill out a directive, at least for providers that get Medicare or Medicaid money.

Health care providers usually appreciate directives

Even though they impose legal requirements, health care providers usually like having a PAD.

When family members disagree with each other or with the doctor about the right thing to do, everybody struggles emotionally. The chance of legal action is high.

With a directive, the doctor knows what to do and who to ask if the PAD does not give enough advice. And families are often more likely to respect their loved one’s wishes than the opinion of a stranger.

Even more importantly, research shows that patients who create a PAD have better working relationships with doctors and other medical personnel, and their treatment is more helpful.

PADs getting more popular with patients and providers

A New York Times article late last year, reprinted by a Florida outlet, reported that patients, advocates and doctors are warming up to PADs, which they hope might help advance mental health care in general.

The directives can provide any information the patient thinks could help in their medical care when they need it most.

The article says this includes, “how to treat their service dogs and what doctors should say to penetrate their psychoses.” One patient suggested that they not “overload me with a whole lot of questions.”