When our clients enter a hospital or other medical facility, they have the peace of mind knowing that their healthcare wishes will be made clear to the staff and that someone they trust already has legal permission to speak for them in an emergency. This is because our estate planning process includes the creation of a comprehensive health care directive which takes into account their most personal wishes and desires if ever incapacitated or faced with a medical crisis.
When you don't have a healthcare directive in place, the hospital will likely ask you to use their forms to create something similar. While it's better to fill out their form than to have no healthcare directive at all, it's important to remember that it will not be personalized to fit your needs.
Keep in mind that when the hospital or other institution puts their forms together, they do so for a wide, unknown audience. They can't possibly anticipate your unique family dynamics, the extent of your medical needs and the “grey area questions” surrounding your care. Worse, the generic forms they use offer little guidance in choosing the right health care agent who can manage your care.
While you might naturally choose your oldest child or a dear friend as a healthcare agent, they may not be the best person for the job. There are other factors to take into consideration such as how close does the person live, their occupation, their ability to make decisions under pressure, can they keep peace in the family and so forth. Without fully thinking this through, you could create a mess for yourself and your loved ones in the event you are incapacitated or need long-term care.
That's why completing a health care directive with your lawyer is so important. He or she will not only help you legally document your wishes, but will also help you choose the best caregivers and minimize the burdens faced by your family. In addition to specifying the type of treatment you do want in an emergency, your attorney will also help you make clear the type of treatment you would never want or perhaps have religious convictions about in a medical crisis.
For example, he or she may ask: What are your feelings about life-sustaining measures such as feeding tubes and respirators? Are there situations in which you would never want these used ? What about religious or cultural restrictions? For example, do your beliefs dictate restrictions on blood transfusions or other lifesaving measures? Upon documenting these wishes, your attorney will then direct you to discuss your thoughts and decisions with the person you have named to oversee your care to ensure everyone is on the same page.
However, there's one final point to keep in mind if you do choose to work with an attorney to create your health care directives. After you've gone through the time and effort, make sure your documents are not invalidated by filling out one of the generic healthcare proxy forms at the hospital. If you use their form, this can negate the one you created with your attorney. It's always better to be safe than sorry and check in with your lawyer before you sign anything. It will save you considerable hassles and problems if a medical crisis arises in the future!
If you have questions about creating a health care directive, we invite you to contact our office at (260) 969-1177 or click here to schedule a consultation.