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Health Care Directives And End Of Life Care

Living wills, health care powers of attorney, do not resuscitate orders and health care surrogate act provisions are among the various kinds of health care directives that are used to make your wishes known regarding end of life care. Medical providers are increasingly concerned about obtaining health care directives and often have their own forms. The best plan is to prepare your own health care directive and give it to the medical providers, rather than use theirs.

The Basics Of A Health Care Power Of Attorney

A health care power of attorney is the most comprehensive type of health care directive. It allows you to authorize other people to act as your agent to make decisions about your health care and personal matters. Powers of attorney are usually prepared with estate planning documents that go into effect immediately in the event you become incapacitated and unable to make necessary health care and personal decisions directly. Health care powers of attorney cover the entire gamut of possible health care and personal decisions that might need to be made and can be tailored to your specific instructions.

Preparing A Living Will Alongside A Health Care Power Of Attorney

The term living will is misleading. It is not a will at all, but really a type of health care directive. A living will is a document that a physician could rely upon directly, without needing to refer to an agent, if your condition meets the following criteria: “An incurable and irreversible injury, disease or illness, judged to be terminal by the attending physician who has personally done an examination and determined that death is imminent except for death-delaying procedures.”

If a doctor determines that your condition meets that criteria, the living will provides the following direction: “I direct that such procedures which would only prolong the dying process be withheld or withdrawn, and that I be permitted to die naturally with only the administration of medication, or the performance of any medical procedure deemed necessary by my attending physician to provide me with comfort care.”

The Health Care Surrogate Act

The Health Care Surrogate Act applies if a person has a “qualifying condition” as defined in the act. It allows third parties the authority to make decisions for patients who lack “decisional capacity” who have a qualifying condition. The act does not apply if other health care directives have been executed such as a living will, declaration for mental health treatment or power of attorney. It identifies the people who have the authority to make decisions on behalf of someone who lacks decisional capacity in the order of the following priority:

  1. Guardian of the person;
  2. Guardian of the spouse;
  3. Any adult son or daughter;
  4. Either parent;
  5. Any adult brother or sister;
  6. Any adult grandchild;
  7. A close friend;
  8. The guardian of the estate.

The Health Care Surrogate Act is a safety net that allows decisions to be made on behalf of a person who is unable to make those decisions if that person has not exercised the right to leave instructions by other means. It is preferable and advisable for people to exercise the right to identify the person or persons you prefer to make those decisions, and to leave your own instructions in regard to that decision making.

Contact Drendel & Jansons Law Group For Assistance Setting Up A Health Care Directive

If you do not have health care directives in place for yourself or your loved ones, please contact us by calling 630-523-0543 or filling out our online contact form. If you have not done your estate planning or your estate planning is old, you should also consider getting your estate in order. We include health care directives as part of the package of estate planning documents that we do for a flat fee. We would love to help you.