Everyone who is eighteen years or older should have an Advanced Health Care Directive. You may recall the national attention surrounding Terri Schiavo, a young woman who spent seven years in a persistent vegetative state. During these years, her husband and parents fought in the courts about whether to remove her feeding tube. At one point, the feeding tube was removed, only to be reinserted several days later after legal decisions were made. The feeding tube was finally permanently removed, and Ms. Schiavo died almost two weeks later.
Nobody wants to have a situation like this happen to them. If you are unable to make healthcare decisions due to mental or physical incapacity (Alzheimer's, stroke, heart attack, etc.), a properly drafted Advance Health Care Directive will not only designate a person of your choosing to make healthcare decisions for you, but it will also contain clear instructions on what you want. You can make your own decisions about whether or not you want pain medication, hydration, artificial nourishment and other life support if you are in a persistent vegetative state or dying.
What happens if I don’t have an Advanced Health Care Directive?
It can be a nightmare for your family and friends if you haven’t designated someone to make health care decisions for you. Usually the Court will designate a guardian to make your health care decisions. There are often legal battles between family members over who would be the best guardian. One example of this is when the incapacitated person is married but has adult children from a prior marriage. In a situation like this, it is not uncommon for the adult children to petition the Court for guardianship, especially if the incapacitated person hasn’t been married to the new spouse for very long. In situations like this, family members often stop speaking to each other. Once the Court gets involved, it usually stays involved until you recover or die and the Court, not your family, will control how your assets are used to care for you and also how and where you receive your care. This process can be expensive, and the end result will most likely not be what you would have chosen for yourself if you were not incapacitated.
Should I use the Living Will document from my doctor’s office?
We don’t recommend it. Most of these that we’ve seen don’t contain the critically important HIPAA language, and this can prevent your agent from being able to review your medical records or get information about your health from your doctor so your agent can make informed decisions about your care.
Click to schedule an appointment or call our office now, we are always ready to discuss your legal concerns.