June 22, 2011
By Heidi Frey
As an experienced attorney with a long career specializing in healthcare law, I believe that every person over the age of 18 should consider what would happen if they are rendered unable to care for themselves. Not only does mapping out details about what you expect for long-term care, organ donation, and other factors relieve your loved ones of the burden of making decisions about you and your future, but it also ensures that the situation unfolds according to your own wishes.
Such documents as a living will and a durable power of attorney for health provide significant protection against the uncertainty of the future. Some states combine these two purposes into one document, often known as an advance directive. A living will describes a written document that outlines the type of care you expect should you become incapacitated. Unlike a regular will or a living trust, a living will focuses on your healthcare-related preferences rather than your personal assets or property. This document includes as much information as you wish to express, such as whether you would wish to remain on life support, whether you would want to be resuscitated, and details such as how long you would wish certain situations to last.
You can also specify whether you want to be revived in the event of certain illnesses or conditions, what measures might be taken on your behalf, and those things you do not want to happen. There is typically a checklist from which to choose. Samples of these documents can often be found online. A durable power of attorney for health care appoints someone as your health care proxy if you should fall into a position in which you cannot take care of yourself. This person takes charge of your medical decisions and serves as the primary point of contact for doctors and other healthcare professionals who are caring for you.