There are three healthcare documents that a person of any age should have. Those three are a Health Care Power of Attorney, an Advanced Directive for a Natural Death, and a Medical Release. Advanced Directive for a Natural Death (ADND) is commonly referred to as a Living Will. It is a legal document very limited in scope and is only for hopelessly dire circumstances. The following are situations in which an ADND would apply:
-If you can’t communicate AND you require life support AND
-If you’re on your death bed (incurable) with little time left; OR
-If you’re unconscious with a high degree of medical certainty that you won’t wake up; OR
-If you suffer from advanced dementia or you are in a persistent vegetative state
The ADND tells the Doctor your wishes under these circumstances. It takes the stress of making end of life decisions off of your family (spouse, child, sibling, parent, etc.). A Health Care Agent appointed under a HCPOA has authority to make these types of decisions, however, there may be guilt or a sense of responsibility for “causing” your death.
It’s worth mentioning that a Health Care Agent appointed under a HCPOA may override or veto the ADND if you give them this important privilege; we strongly recommend giving your agent this authority. This is important because not all Doctors are created equal and/or you may be located in a rural area with less than the best medical equipment to support the doctor’s evaluation; your agent may want a second opinion or a delay to discuss the issues with family members. Your Health Care Agent may override your ADND in order to get that second opinion and get that delay needed for re-assurance.
It can be unnerving to think about these end of life decisions. As always, we suggest you communicate with your family so they know your wishes. Then schedule an appointment with one of our attorneys to get these important documents in place.