Harry is a 63-year-old man who lives in Massachusetts with his wife Elaine and his 84-year-old mom. Harry and Elaine have two adult children. When Harry suddenly became sick and unable to make medical decisions for himself, Elaine thought that she could jump in and make those decisions for him. Unfortunately, Harry’s doctor said she couldn’t. And neither could Harry’s mom or his adult children. That’s because Harry hadn’t created any health care documents.
The truth is that in Massachusetts, a spouse, parents, and children have no legal right to make health care decisions for you when you’re incapacitated (you no longer have the ability to understand and appreciate the consequences of your actions and to make rational decisions). Many people are surprised by this because that’s not the case in most other states. But Massachusetts requires that a person can only make health care decisions for you when you’re incapacitated if they’re legally your health care agent or guardian. There are health care providers who may rely informally on family members to make decisions (especially when they’re all in agreement), but legally medical providers don’t have to follow those directions.
If you want to ensure that a loved one can access your medical records and obtain the ability to make decisions on their behalf, it’s important for you to meet with a Massachusetts estate planning attorney to get these health care documents:
1. Health Care Proxy
A Massachusetts health care proxy is a health care document that allows you to choose someone you trust to make medical decisions for you in case you become incapacitated (you no longer have the ability to understand and appreciate the consequences of your actions and to make rational decisions). Documenting how you want to be treated by a health care team and communicating with your chosen health care proxy about your wishes, will ensure that your medical treatment instructions are carried out.
Without a health care proxy, your family members will have to go to court to have someone appointed as guardian. That takes time and money and postpones your ability to get medical care, although doctors can still provide life-saving medical care.
2. Living Will
A living will is a health care document that works in conjunction with a health care proxy by expressing your wishes as to how your designated agent should proceed in specific circumstances. Do you want life-prolonging treatment if you have a terminal illness? Do you want a respirator to help you breathe?
3. HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act Authorization)
This document designates who can access your protected health information. Without such a document, a hospital or other provider might not be able to tell your loved ones any information about your care, or even that you’re in their care.
Planning for the possibility of incapacity will give you the peace of mind that you‘ll be well-taken care of if you should ever become incapacitated. As a Massachusetts estate planning lawyer, I can help you create the necessary health care documents that would come into play to support you. Call us today at 617.299.6976 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a confidential, no-cost consultation to discuss your incapacity planning.