Do you have a Health Care Proxy? Living Will?
What happens, heaven forbid, if you find yourself being hauled off to an emergency room during this pandemic? We’ve all read the horror stories of loved ones being taken away and not allowed any visitors. Worse yet, if you are sedated, or in a position not to speak for yourself, who will speak for you in the Hospital? Who will make the ultimate decision if you are in an irreversible state? Will there be a debate amongst your loved ones as to whether or not to take you off life support? Without a Heath Care Proxy and a Living Will, these scenarios can become nightmarish.
If you have a Health Care Proxy, it means you have designated a “Health Care Agent,” someone you trust, to speak for you at the hospital. In other words, you have given that trusted person the legal authority to speak for you, to advocate for you. This makes everyone’s life simpler, yours, and the hospital’s in the event you cannot speak for yourself. This is an extremely important document as it gives the Health Care Agent enormous power. These documents should include warning language such as this:
EXCEPT AS YOU OTHERWISE SPECIFY IN THIS DOCUMENT, THIS DOCUMENT GIVES THE PERSON YOU DESIGNATE AS YOUR AGENT THE POWER TO MAKE HEALTH CARE DECISIONS FOR YOU WHEN YOU ARE NO LONGER CAPABLE OF MAKING HEALTH CARE DECISIONS FOR YOURSELF. YOUR AGENT MUST ACT CONSISTENTLY WITH YOUR DESIRES AS STATED IN THIS DOCUMENT OR OTHERWISE MADE KNOWN. UNLESS YOU STATE OTHERWISE, YOUR AGENT HAS THE SAME AUTHORITY TO MAKE DECISIONS ABOUT YOUR HEALTH CARE AS YOU WOULD HAVE IF YOU WERE ABLE TO MAKE HEALTH CARE DECISIONS FOR YOURSELF.
YOUR AGENT HAS THE POWER TO MAKE A BROAD RANGE OF HEALTH CARE DECISIONS FOR YOU. THE PERSON YOU APPOINT AS YOUR AGENT SHOULD BE SOMEONE YOU KNOW AND TRUST. YOU SHOULD DISCUSS THIS DOCUMENT WITH YOUR AGENT.
This language is not all inclusive, but certainly illustrates the point.
If you have a Living Will it can be used in tandem with the Health Care Proxy to put the World on Notice of what YOUR desires are in the event that you are in an irreversible state and constitute your exercise of your legal right to refuse treatment. Some of the language in document could include the following:
“Therefore, I expect my family, physicians, health care facilities and all concerned with my care to regard themselves as legally and morally bound to act in accordance with my wishes, and in so doing to be free from any liability for having followed my directions. These directions reflect my firm and settled commitment to decline medical treatment under the circumstances indicated above. I intend these directions to be carried out, unless I have rescinded them in a new writing or by clearly indicating that I have changed my mind.”
As you can see, in these uncertain times, it is extremely important to be prepared with these two documents-in our future postings, we will discuss the importance of having a Power of Attorney and a Last Will and Testament, all of which can be prepared by a qualified attorney.
In the meantime, please stay healthy and safe!
Thanks to our friends from La Pietra & Krieger PC for their insight into health care proxies.