Thinking about facing the possibility of a deadly illness or injury is not something people like to imagine. Because of this, we rarely think about how to protect ourselves and our loved ones if the worst were to happen. However, just as it is important to buy home insurance to protect your home and auto insurance to protect your vehicle, every individual should have an advance care directive or healthcare power of attorney to protect themselves if they were no longer able to make decisions for their health care, end of life, living arrangements, and various other personal matters.
The basic definition of healthcare power of attorney is a legal document in which a person puts in writing what their wishes are for their health if they no longer have the capacity to make these decisions for themselves. Healthcare powers of attorney may also avoid the need for a guardianship. Everyone who is above the age of 18 should have one.
There are several key items you should include in your healthcare power of attorney. While these can be drafted without legal help, this is a legally binding document as soon as it is signed in front of any required witnesses or notary and you must seek the advice of a legal professional when creating a directive. The most important instructions to include are which life support treatments you want, or do not want. You can provide directions on if you want all life support treatments, no life support treatments, or you may choose individual support treatments such as blood transfusions or dialysis.
The decision-maker you name in your healthcare power of attorney will be responsible for making medical decisions on your behalf in the event you are unable to. This person should be someone who you are close to and can trust. You should also decide if you want a do not resuscitate order, which states that if your heart stops or you are no longer breathing, you want every effort or no effort made to revive you. Depending on your personal preferences, you should also include whether you would like to become a registered organ donor.
IMPORTANT INFORMATION TO KEEP IN MIND
Healthcare powers of attorney and advance directives are not congruent throughout the United States and laws may vary from state to state. This can often be confusing because one state’s directive may not work in another state. To ensure your wishes are carried out, you should complete a healthcare power of attorneys for all states where you spend a significant amount of time.
Healthcare power of attorneys has no expiration timeline – the original will remain in effect unless you make changes to it. If you create a new healthcare power of attorney in the same state, the previous one will be invalidated. However, it is important to notify the agent named in both the old and new documents.
If your wishes do change, it is important to keep your healthcare power of attorney up to date. If you choose to make changes, it is recommended that you create an entirely new document. Healthcare power of attorneys are extremely important because they give you a voice when you may not be able to speak on your behalf. If you have questions or would like to discuss your personal situation, please don’t hesitate to reach out. Contact our Albuquerque office at (505) 830-0202.