When medical emergencies arise, it’s best to have already defined your health care preferences. A health care directive, also known as a living will, ensures that your wishes are carried out in the event that you’re incapacitated, terminally ill, or otherwise incapable of communicating during a crisis. A health care directive helps us to maintain our dignity and values, even during the most difficult situations.
Thousands of people a year wind up in unresponsive or vegetative states, often as the result of a traumatic brain injury. Other crisis situations render unfortunate victims incapable of living on their own without the aid of assistive medical technologies. It allows you to make your own choices in regards to things like feeding tubes, ventilators, blood transfusions, antibiotics, dialysis machines, and other lifesaving measures and treatments.
Your Legal Rights
A healthcare directive specifies your preferences. For instance, you have the legal right to determine whether you want to be resuscitated if an illness or injury were to stop your heartbeat. It’s a clear way to communicate your wishes. It also allows you to name an individual (agent) to make medical decisions on your behalf. If you do declare an agent, make sure he or she is someone you trust.
Some people have religious or philosophical concerns related to certain procedures or medications. A health care directive allows you to uphold your beliefs, even if you’re unable to speak for yourself. A notable example of this is the policy of Jehovah’s Witnesses to abstain from blood transfusions. Most members of this religion carry a medical directive in their wallet or purse.
Creating a Health Care Directive
There are legal requirements to bear in mind when crafting a health care directive. Unfortunately, you can’t simply write down your wishes and sign on the dotted line. Certain steps are crucial to ensure the document is legally binding. It would be terrible if your wishes were dismissed because of a legal technicality.
A health care directive must either be signed in front of two witnesses or notarized. Although, neither the notary or your witnesses can legally act as your agent, and one of your witnesses has to be someone other than a healthcare provider or employee of a provider that cares for you.
Overall, a health care directive formalizes our wishes, diminishing the burden of stress and uncertainty for our families and loved ones. For help with your estate planning needs, please contact Lewman Law at (925) 447-1250.