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The Importance of End of Life Directives

Do you understand the importance of the power of attorney for healthcare? In New Mexico, a power of attorney for healthcare contains “living will” provisions instead of requiring a separate living will document.  Your power of attorney for healthcare should layout your preferences for life-sustaining medical treatment in case you are not able to communicate your wishes during that time.  Sometimes a power of attorney for healthcare is also referred to as an “advance directive”.

As of 2017, only around one in three American adults had an advance directive or healthcare power of attorney with documented end-of-life wishes. Those who are older than 65 are more likely to have an advance directive prepared than those who are younger, as are those who have chronic illness more likely than those who are not. People may be unwilling to prepare these documents because they fear that they won’t necessarily reflect their wishes at the time they become relevant; sometimes patients become more willing to undergo treatments they rejected when they were younger as they age and develop medical problems. However, the documents can be changed as long as they are witnessed or notarized (depending on current law). And if you continue to communicate your values with your agent, they can make decisions based on your most recent preferences.  In New Mexico, the emphasis is on who makes your healthcare decisions, and your agent has the discretion to make whatever decisions he or she feels are appropriate given your wishes and the current circumstances.

So why is this important? It reduces ambiguity which can prevent family disputes during what is already a difficult time. It may seem like something that can be put off, but life is unpredictable; one never knows when these documents could become relevant. Furthermore, it needn’t be a hassle. A healthcare power of attorney is a straightforward document, but it’s important to work with legal counsel to make sure your beliefs are properly stated. Other health care documents, such as a Medical Order for Scope of Treatment (MOST), may also be important to do.  

Once you have signed any documents make sure you keep them updated, especially if you change states, and be diligent in communicating with whomever you named to act on your behalf.If you need a health care power of attorney or already have one that you would like reviewed, please don’t hesitate to contact our Albuquerque office at (505) 830-0202.

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