First, what exactly are health care directives (also known an advance health care directives)? They are written documents that express your health care wishes when you’re no longer able to personally communicate those wishes. Many healthy adults often make the mistake of thinking they don’t need health care directives. But the truth is that in Massachusetts, your spouse, parents, and children have no legal right to make health care decisions for you. And the pandemic has made it clear that people can become incapacitated at any time in their lives.
The four reasons why you need health care directives:
- They encourage you to think about your goals for your health care. If you’re at the stage where you’re receiving end-of-life care, would you want a feeding tube? Would you want CPR? Some people want to prolong their lives as much as possible; others would prioritize pain relief and minimizing any suffering. This is your chance to make those decisions and communicate them to loved ones and health care providers.
- Advance directives give you some control over your health care. If you become unable to communicate what you want, your advance directives help make sure you’ll be treated the way you want.
- They help prepare you for unpredictable medical situations. Even younger people can find themselves in a situation where they are unable to communicate their wishes for their health care. A sudden accident or a disease that has progressed rapidly can happen to anyone. Be prepared for those situations.
- Advance health care directives provide your loved ones with comfort. When loved ones need to make health care decisions for you, it’s very hard on them especially when they are not sure what you’d want to do. When you create your health care directives and talk to your loved ones about them, they will find comfort in knowing that they will be able to follow your wishes if they are ever put in the position to act for you. Also, having those documents ensures that the people you choose will be able to make choices for you when you’re unable to do so.
After you’ve created your advance directives, be sure to give a copies to your doctor as well as to the people you love. And if you’re not ready to share it with the people you love, at least be sure they know where you keep it.
As an experienced Massachusetts estate planning lawyer, I can help you create health care directives as part of a comprehensive estate plan.
A living will or advance directive is used to express wishes for medical treatments if you’re not able to express them yourself.
A health care proxy lets you name a trusted person who will make health care decisions on your behalf if you can’t make the decisions or communicate your wishes.
A HIPAA authorization makes it possible for health care providers to share medical information with a person of your choice. Otherwise, the health care providers aren’t permitted to discuss your medical history, medical status, diagnostic reports, lab results, etc., with family members.
Advance care directives aren’t just for long-term incapacity. Let’s say you need to recover from a car accident for two months in the hospital, having these documents in place permits a person you trust (your health care proxy) to have important conversations with your health care providers and to make decisions on your behalf.
For parents of young adults, having these documents in place will allow them to stay involved in an adult child’s healthcare. It’s not a scenario that any parent wants to contemplate, but having these documents prepared in advance can save a great deal of stress and anguish, if and when they are needed.
As a skilled Massachusetts estate planning attorney, I’ll work with you to create an estate plan that meets your specific needs and includes the advance health care directives that will help express your wishes for health care. Contact us today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.