A Health Care Directive (often called a Living Will) is an important document to have in case you should become incapacitated, or unable to voice or make your own health care decisions. Through a Health Care Directive, you are able to name an agent to make health care decisions for you in times that you are unable to do so yourself.  You can also clearly state your health care wishes so that they are known to your health care provider and your named agent.  Health Care Directives also include a HIPAA waiver, allowing your agent to access your medical information should the need arise.

If you do not have a Health Care Directive, your physician may listen to what close family members or friends say about your treatment preferences.  However, having a Health Care Directive is the best way to be sure that your wishes are followed, and that anyone making decisions for you is, in fact, someone you trust to make those decisions.  Furthermore, without a Health Care Directive naming an authorized agent to make your health care decisions, those close to you could end up having to go through the courts to have a guardian appointed.  Guardianship proceedings can be extremely expensive, costing thousands of dollars in court costs and legal fees.  The time and financial investment that it takes to complete a Health Care Directive is minimal in comparison to a guardianship proceeding.

Not only do Health Care Directives ensure that your wishes are made known, but they guide your family and friends in making what can be difficult decisions for you.  Imagine you are on life support and the decision must be made whether or not to continue life support – by having a Health Care Directive, you are able to direct an agent to make that decision for you, and also indicate your wishes regarding that scenario.

Health Care Directives can address the following items:

  • Who you trust to be your agent and make heath care decisions for you.  This include naming alternate agents if the first agent is unavailable, or naming joint agents to make decisions together;
  • How you want or agent or agents to decide;
  • Your person goals, values and preferences about health care;
  • What types of medical treatment you would want (or not want);
  • Where you want to receive medical care;
  • Instructions regarding artificial nutrition and hydration;
  • Instructions regarding pain management;
  • Instructions regarding mental health treatments such as use of electroshock therapy;
  • Donation of organs, tissues and eyes;
  • Who you would like as guardian or conservator if there is a court action;
  • Funeral arrangements;
  • Instructions if you are pregnant.

Once you have completed a Health Care Directive, it is effective until you change or cancel it. Your health care provider is required to follow the Health Care Directive unless such wishes would not help you, are illegal, or do not follow reasonable medical practice.

After you complete your Health Care Directive, you should provide copies to the agent(s) named, family members or close friends, and to your primary physician(s).  Be sure to keep a copy in a safe place where it can be easily found.

In order for a Health Care Directive to be given full effect in Minnesota, it must meet certain statutory requirements.  Working with an attorney to draft and execute your Health Care Directive is the best way to ensure it is done correctly.

The material contained herein is for informational purposes only, and is not intended to create or constitute an attorney-client relationship between Schromen Law, LLC and the reader. The information contained herein is not offered as legal advice and should not be construed as legal advice.

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