April 16th is National Healthcare Decisions Day, a day dedicated to “ensuring that all adults with decision-making capacity in the United States have the information and opportunity to communicate and document their healthcare decisions.” Our firm is in complete support of such a goal. In fact, we include a Health Care Directive as an important component of each estate plan we draft.
Every adult should have a Health Care Directive, whether they anticipate a forthcoming hospital stay or not. Executing a Health Care Directive will ensure that, in case of emergency, you receive the medical treatment you need—and want—and prevent the receipt of treatment to which you are opposed.
A complete Health Care Directive (sometimes known as a Healthcare Power of Attorney) will consist of the following key elements:
1. Nomination of Agents—those who will make your decisions if you are unable
2. Instructions as to your wishes for healthcare and invasive treatment
3. Whether or not to include a “Do Not Resuscitate” (DNR) order
4. Nomination of a Primary Care Physician
5. Your intention (or not) to donate organs
6. Burial/Cremation instructions
There is one more key element to a truly complete Health Care Directive, and that element is discussion. It is absolutely essential that you discuss your wishes for your health care with the people who will be involved should something happen to you; this includes your family, any friends you have named as agents, and your doctors.
Once you have executed your Health Care Directive, give a copy to your doctors and to each of the people you’ve named as agents.
Executing your Health Care Directive early will take the pressure off your loved ones if anything should happen to you, and make it easier for them to ensure you get the care you want and need. Don’t put off this important document; create your Health Care Directive today.