Have you thought about what could happen if you became incapacitated today and couldn’t communicate your final wishes? While it’s not a pleasant thing to consider, it is a vitally important one, especially if you have loved ones who depend on you. Even the people who know you best might be unsure of what to do if you suddenly become incapacitated or too ill to communicate effectively.
With an advance directive, you can outline your preferences for critical end-of-life decisions, such as life support procedures, blood transfusions, or organ donations. You can also nominate an agent who can tell your doctors what to do based on your decisions now, while you’re still able to make them.
If you’re considering an advance directive and want to learn more, contact Pennington Law, PLLC. Our lawyers understand how unpleasant preparing for the worst-case scenario can be. But by making the hard decisions now and outlining your end-of-life preferences in advance, you can spare your loved ones future heartache.
Let us make this otherwise difficult process as painless as possible. Contact a Sun City West advance directives attorney from Pennington Law, PLLC, today for a free initial consultation.
An advance directive is a legal document outlining your wishes regarding medical treatment in case you can’t speak for yourself at some point in the future. Healthcare professionals consult advance directives to determine what they should do if someone is terminally ill or loses consciousness for an extended period. When you create an advance directive, you can designate an agent to oversee your care and discuss which treatments you want or don’t want with your doctors.
What Types of Advance Directives Are There?
Two types of advance directives can protect you after an unexpected incident prevents you from communicating your medical care preferences: living wills and durable powers of attorney.
A living will is a type of advance directive that tells medical staff and family members about the treatments you do or don’t want to receive if you cannot communicate for yourself. Your living will can go into effect when a doctor deems you incompetent and unable to make sound decisions.
A living will could specify your preferences regarding the following:
- Whether you want mechanical ventilation to help you breathe if you can’t do so on your own, and how long doctors should keep you on a ventilator if necessary
- Whether you want healthcare providers to use cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) or a defibrillator to restart your heart if it stops beating
- Whether you want life-sustaining treatment only to preserve organs and tissue for donation
- Whether you want tube feedings to supply your body with necessary fluids and nutrients if you cannot eat or drink
- Whether to administer antibiotics, antiviral medications, or other drugs to fight and prevent infections near the end of your life
- Whether dialysis is an acceptable option if your kidneys stop functioning correctly
- Whether you want to donate your organs or donate your body to science after you die
Durable Powers of Attorney
A durable power of attorney (POA) for healthcare decisions is an advance directive document authorizing a chosen agent or healthcare representative to make medical care decisions for you if you can’t communicate or make them yourself. Suppose an injury, illness, or accident renders you unconscious or prevents you from making competent decisions for yourself. In that case, your agent can speak on your behalf and provide your physicians with the information they need to treat you according to your wishes.
A healthcare representative can handle responsibilities such as:
- Determining whether you should live at home or move to an assisted living facility
- Discussing aspects of your emergency or end-of-life medical care with your doctors
- Deciding whether or not to end life-support measures according to your living will
- Refusing or consenting to recommended treatments based on your preferences
- Intervening in disputes between family members regarding your medical care
What Should I Consider When Preparing an Advance Directive?
You should pick an agent you trust when you draft your advance directive. Your agent must carry out your wishes regardless of their personal feelings, beliefs, or agendas. You should give them clear instructions, so they know what to do in all possible circumstances. Nominating an alternate agent is also a good idea in case your primary agent can’t or won’t fulfill their duties.
Including a Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) release form with your advance directive is a good idea, too. Your medical providers can discuss your care with whomever you have on the signed release. This simplifies the process for your agent when they need to access your records or discuss your needs with your doctors. Without a HIPAA release, your agent might need to go to court for approval to access your medical information.
You should also consider the procedures you might or might not want if something traumatic happens, such as debilitating brain trauma or a coma. Discussing your decisions with your family is an excellent way to avoid potential problems in the future, but writing everything down in your advance directive is even better. You can prevent arguments, confusion, or even litigation among your loved ones by carefully considering your preferences and working with a lawyer to ensure your advance directive does exactly what you want.
Although you can’t predict the future, you can prepare for possible healthcare scenarios by outlining your medical preferences in an advance directive, such as those regarding:
- Feeding tubes, breathing tubes, dialysis machines, and other life-support devices
- Your preferences for donating organs, tissues, or other body parts
- Life support and how long to continue it if you’re in a coma or persistent vegetative state
- Final arrangements, such as where you want to die, which medications physicians can administer, whom you want with you, and your preferences for funerary or memorial services
- Whether performing an autopsy is acceptable after your death if authorities find it necessary
What Are a Healthcare Representative’s Duties in an Advance Directive?
Appointing a healthcare representative is a deeply personal decision. When you nominate a healthcare agent, you should pick someone you trust to fulfill their duties and respect your wishes. They should understand what’s expected of them when they agree to be your representative and promise to make the decisions you would want, even if it’s personally upsetting or challenging for them.
A healthcare representative has specific rights and responsibilities under the law. The role involves more than deciding whether to continue life-saving treatments or reject certain procedures. The duties of a representative often include the following:
- Facilitating and maintaining open communication with your medical team
- Authorizing physician or facility transfers when necessary
- Evaluating different treatment options based on your condition
- Refusing or allowing specific treatments, medications, or tests
- Seeking consultations with specialists and obtaining second options when necessary
- Deciding whether to continue artificial life support
What Are Common Disputes Related to an Advance Directive?
Some people have issues with healthcare representatives assuming control or making certain decisions because they don’t think the incapacitated person would authorize those actions or treatments. This is especially common when the information in an advance directive comes as a shock because the incapacitated person never discussed it with their family.
Disputes over advance directives can arise in many circumstances, such as those involving:
- Unauthorized actions by healthcare representatives
- Healthcare decisions that violate federal or state laws
- Approval for procedures that go against the written provisions in an advance directive
- Unclear instructions regarding resuscitation, life support, or other medical issues
Resolving disputes over advance directives is challenging because those who create the directives can’t clarify matters for themselves. They can’t tell their family that a living will or power of attorney is valid and includes the provisions they want.
In some cases, filing a lawsuit might be necessary if families can’t resolve their disagreements outside of court. You can avoid ugly courtroom battles by preparing a straightforward and thorough advance directive, then meeting with your loved ones to explain every aspect of your decisions.
How a Sun City West, AZ, Healthcare Directive Attorney Can Help You
Using a free template or form from the internet might be tempting when preparing your advance directive. But most of these documents are generic and lack specific language or options that can account for your unique needs.
Hiring a lawyer to help you prepare your advance directive is always a good idea. Working with a lawyer can save you and your loved ones time, money, and considerable stress. An experienced lawyer in Sun City West, AZ, can help you create advance directives that clearly lay out your desired wishes and eliminates opportunities for confusion or misinterpretation.
Contact an Experienced Sun City West, AZ, Advance Directives Lawyer Today
Pennington Law, PLLC is here to advise you of your options and establish a healthcare directive suited to your needs. We can protect your interests and ensure your loved ones have the information they need to honor your final wishes.
To get help with starting your advance directives or updating the directive you already have, contact us today for a free consultation.