According to the National Council on Aging (NCOA), 75% of individuals will likely need assistance from someone else regarding their medical decisions. Establishing medical directives can help improve an individual’s care and reduce the stress and burden placed on their loved ones associated with making somebody else’s key health care decisions. Learn about what an advance health care directive is and why it is important, and find out how a seasoned San Francisco estate planning attorney from Von Rock Law can help individuals create effective estate plans by contacting (866) 720-0195.
Advance Care Planning Explained
Advance care planning refers to considering and preparing for an individual’s future medical care decisions in the event that they become seriously unwell and cannot communicate their own views. One crucial part of this process entails discussing a person’s medical wishes with their loved ones. In addition to having these conversations, many individuals choose to establish a written record of their medical views via legal documents such as a living will or medical power of attorney.
What Is an Advance Health Care Directive?
The National Institute on Aging (NIA) defines health care directives, or medical directives, as legal documents giving instructions related to an individual’s medical care, which take effect if that person cannot communicate their wishes to others. They are living documents individuals regularly review after a set period, after significant life events such as marriage, divorce, moving (especially to another state), or retirement, or after their health changes substantially.
Two of the most popular medical directives are medical powers of attorney and living wills, explained below:
- Living wills: These are legal documents informing doctors of a person’s health care wishes if they cannot make their own decisions when emergency treatment is necessary. Individuals who opt for these documents can state the common care or treatments they want and do not want.
- Medical power of attorney: This type of legal document nominates a health care proxy, which refers to the individual who makes medical decisions on behalf of another person when they cannot communicate these themselves. Ideally, this nominated person should have an excellent understanding of the other person’s wishes and values. An individual may choose to use both living wills and medical powers of attorney, or they may choose to draft and sign just one of these.
Residents of San Francisco may choose to take advantage of the California Probate Code’s Advance Health Care Directive Form, which includes sections for both enumerating one’s treatment preferences and designating a power of attorney to make medical decisions in situations that might not be covered under the living will.
How Do I Discuss Advance Health Care Directives with My Family?
Discussing medical directives with family members can be a daunting experience since it involves talking about topics many people find uncomfortable, like getting older or sick. Despite this, it is much easier for everyone involved to have these necessary conversations sooner rather than later, and definitely before the individual in question becomes ill.
The following tips may be useful for beginning these challenging discussions:
- Start the discussion with common conversation starters, such as recently shared TV shows, articles, current affairs, or movies.
- Consider other points of entry for these chats too, such as funerals, medical check-ups, and sermons.
- Focus on values, including what constitutes quality of life.
- Begin by sharing your own medical wishes and then ask everyone else to share their points of view.
- Prepare to have these discussions more than once and for these conversations to lead to emotional reactions.
Learn more about why everyone should set up an advance health care directive and get assistance with your estate planning queries by arranging a consultation with a San Francisco estate planning lawyer from Von Rock Law.
Why Is It Important That Everyone Should Complete an Advance Directive?
Having an advance directive in place does not just apply to ill or old individuals. Even a person in the peak of health can experience a health care crisis at any point in their lifetime, leaving them unable to communicate and make medical decisions. When everyone completes an advance medical directive, it ensures they receive medical care according to their wishes and makes sure that a trusted individual will make crucial health care decisions on their behalf.
Why Is It So Important to Know and Understand Your Patient’s Advance Directives?
For medical professionals, being aware of, and understanding, their patients’ advance directives is imperative in order to avoid potential legal action. This is because advance directives are legally recognized documents. If a doctor provides their patient with a treatment that saves their life during an emergency where the patient had no capacity, and the patient specifically stated in their living will that they did not want this type of treatment, the patient might bring a lawsuit against the doctor for breaching the directive’s terms.
That said, advance directives are not legally binding; health care providers should try to respect the views of the incapacitated individual but may not always do so, particularly if the medical situation is complex and the directive is unclear regarding a certain area. A health care provider can also refuse to follow these directives if the views go against their conscience, the medical institution’s policy, or accepted medical standards. In this scenario, if the patient has established a health care proxy as well as a living will, the provider must immediately inform the medical power of attorney and may also consider transferring the patient to an alternative provider.
Why Is It Important for Patients to Have Advance Directives in Place?
Advance directives are vital to establish for patients with very specific medical views, ensuring health care professionals provide treatments according to these opinions when the individuals in question are unable to convey them. Examples of these decisions are:
- Using intravenous fluids and food
- Performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation
- Providing treatments where the patient has impaired capacity, such as when suffering from dementia, head injury, or stroke
- Conducting certain procedures that some religions do not allow, such as blood transfusions
What Happens When a Patient Does Not Have a Medical Directive?
State laws dictate who makes the patient’s medical decisions if an individual who does not have any established advance health care directives becomes incapacitated. Usually, this is the patient’s spouse, parents, or adult children. If the patient does not have a spouse, but they have a partner whom they have not named as their proxy, then this person is likely to not have a say in the patient’s medical decisions.
Contact a California Estate Planning Attorney Today
Setting up an advance medical directive can help prepare a person’s loved ones in the event of that individual’s incapacitation. In this scenario, the family can confidently make medical decisions in line with the incapacitated person’s wishes. Understand more about what an advance health care directive is and its importance, and gain assistance with your estate planning requirements, by calling a California estate planning lawyer with Von Rock Law at (866) 720-0195.