While you may feel responsible for your own medical decisions – there can be circumstances under which it may not be possible for you to make your treatment decisions anymore. To make sure that your medical treatment preferences are respected by medical professionals, you can take certain steps. Two of the things you can do to ensure that are:
Create advanced medical directives.
Appoint a health care proxy who will have the medical power of attorney.
An Advance Directive is also known as a Living Will. They are legal documents that have a detailed description of the type and the extent of health care or medical treatment you wish to receive. Usually, an advance directive is meant to provide your health care agent or your health care proxy with instructions about your medical care. An advance medical directive can also detail your wishes regarding your treatment preferences such as do not resuscitate (DNR) orders, life-sustaining treatment, and life support.
In most cases, advance directives are legally binding. But you should check your state laws to see if that is the case – since advance directives are not legally binding in Massachusetts. The document stating your advanced directive is usually called your Living Will, and is meant to help your medical proxy or medical power of attorney make your health care decisions for you.
When you make your living will, you give a family member, a loved one, or an agent permission to make your medical decisions. Therefore, you must pick someone that you can trust to carry out your wishes regarding your medical treatment. If you have been diagnosed with a terminal illness, or have a medical condition that reduces your life expectancy, then creating advance directives will be a good idea for you. Even if you end up in a situation where you are unable to make your own medical decisions, having advance directives in place will ensure that your wishes regarding your health care treatment are carried out.
Those who have been diagnosed with a terminal illness or a degenerative illness should appoint a health care proxy. The purpose of the health care proxy is to make your medical decisions for you if you are unable to do so yourself. Usually, a health care proxy will make your health care decisions for you if you are no longer capable of making them yourself or you are no longer able to communicate your wishes regarding your medical treatment.
You may choose your spouse, a loved one, or any family member to be your health care proxy. The person you choose will take over decision-making for you and act either in your best interests or according to your health care wishes that you have stated in your advance directives. The power of the health care proxy will only come into effect if you are indisposed or are no longer in a state to make your own medical decisions.
Your health care proxy will have to decide how to go about your end-of-life care. They will also be making your medical decisions regarding tube feeding, dialysis, ventilators, or any kind of life support. In case you are declared to be brain-dead, they can also decide on organ or tissue donation.
An advance medical directive refers to the documents that state your wishes when it comes to your medical treatment. Your health care proxy will have medical power of attorney – which means that they will be making your health care decisions for you once you are unable to make your own decisions. An advance medical directive usually works in conjunction with your health care proxy. It is up to your health care proxy to execute the wishes that you have expressed in your advance directives. If you do not have any instructions for your proxy, then they have the final call regarding your treatment options.
If you have appointed a health care proxy, they will take over your treatment decisions once you are unable to make them anymore. You can appoint your health care proxy by signing a health care proxy form. While the document does not need notarization, in the State of New York the form appointing your health care proxy needs to be signed by two witnesses.
There are certain situations where having advanced medical directives and a health care proxy is crucial for your well-being. While there can be unexpected events that render you incapable of making your own medical decisions– such as motor vehicle accidents– there are certain circumstances under which advanced medical directives and medical proxy are needed beyond a doubt. They are as follows:
You have been diagnosed with a terminal illness.
You have a degenerative disease and need palliative care.
You are an elderly person.
If you have certain healthcare directives regarding DNR, ventilators, organ donation, tube feeding, or providing/removing life-support, you can include them in your advanced medical directive. Your health care providers need to follow the healthcare directives that you have chosen. If you do not want to be resuscitated or to be given a certain treatment, then your medical directives can override other medical orders, even if your physician orders for life-sustaining treatment.
While most people may not like to think about advanced directives and health care proxies, they are essential for end-of-life care and estate planning. If you have any further questions about advanced medical directives – or any other aspect of end-of-life planning, such as settlements – then reach out to Uplife.
A: Your health care proxy can only make your medical decisions for you if you are unable to make them yourself. If you were to slip into a coma for a day, then your medical proxy could only make your decisions for that day. Once you awake, you’d get to make your own medical decisions.
A: Your health care proxy can make all your medical decisions if you are unable to do so yourself - and can give consent to life-saving procedures and life-prolonging treatments.
A: Your medical power of attorney can make your medical decisions for you, while the durable power of attorney makes your financial decisions for you - if you are unable to do so yourself. Your medical power of attorney and durable power of attorney could be the same person, or they could be different people. You can assign a medical power of attorney and a durable power of attorney when you complete your advance directive forms.
A: It has been observed that some elderly people in nursing homes do not have family members who can care for them. If that is the case, you may contact an elder law attorney who will act as your proxy. You may even take the help of a social worker if that is an option for you.