Most of the time, if you are sick or get injured, you can talk to the doctors about your care options. But, if you’re unconscious after a skiing accident, or delirious from pneumonia, your medical documents allow the medical agent you choose to talk with your doctors and make decisions. To do this, they must have a Medical Durable Power of Attorney that authorizes them to act for you. It’s also helpful if you have a Medical Directive that explains to your agent and doctors what kind of care you want and what you don’t want.
Without these documents, your doctors would be exposing themselves to liability if they don’t simply do whatever they can do to keep you alive. Occasionally, they bend the rules and listen to your spouse or next of kin but many hospitals are concerned they’ll be sued if they provide care that you later decide you didn’t want or another relative decides was a mistake. That can be a serious legal problem for them so many hospitals won’t risk it. Even when they are willing, relatives often disagree on the best course of action and what you’d want done.
Medical documents spell out specifics on issues like painkiller, surgery, and other options. For example, if you’re simply unconscious or unable to speak for yourself, your agent works with your doctors on treatment options like whether surgery is advisable or different medication options. In dire circumstances, where your doctors agree that you can’t be saved, you’ve provided guidance on how you choose to die rather than being put on indefinite life support.
When you choose your agent, they will be guided by precisely what you told them and have full authority to make the decisions needed so that you are more likely to get the care you would have chosen yourself. It also has the benefit that doctors can relax and discuss what is really in your best interests.
The best time to do these documents is now, rather than wait until you’re already in trouble and aren’t in good enough shape to get the documents done. You’re the best person to select your agent and back up agent. The best agents are ones who know you well, that have good judgment and respect your wishes. It also helps if they live nearby though that isn’t essential. Your attorney can work with you on the different medical issues and options so you have the peace of mind that comes from having a set of documents tailored to your preferences. Many attorneys do this as part of a flat fee package that includes other estate planning documents at a reasonable charge.
Thank you to our friends at Julie Kreutzer, LLC for the above blog.