What is an Advanced Health Care Directive?
An Advanced Health Care Directive form allows an individual (the principal) to nominate an individual to act on their behalf (the agent, generally the attorney-in-fact) with regard to making medical decisions. In essence, the agent steps into the shoes of the principal to make health care decisions when the principal is unwilling or ceases to be able to make medical decisions on their own behalf. For example, if your mother is in a coma and you are the designated attorney-in-fact, you can speak with the medical staff and make health care decisions on behalf of your mother, in accordance with the terms of that form.
It is important to note two key details. First, as long as the principal has capacity to inform the medical staff of their decisions, the agent cannot act. The medical staff must defer to the principal, even if the agent disagrees with the principal’s decision. Second, the principal can, at any time, revoke some or all of the powers of the agent.
Principal Retention of Power
The reason the principal retains this power is to give the principal as much control and agency over their own life as possible. Agents may move out of the area, be arrested, pass away, or simply decline to act. A principal needs to be able to update their Advanced Health Care Directive accordingly.
End of Life Decisions
Assuming you are the agent for your mom, you are able to make medical decisions for her, which may include end of life decisions. As such, it is critical that you know what your loved one wants regarding their medical care. Do they want you to try everything possible to keep them alive? Do they simply want palliative care? Do they want to spend time with family and let the disease take its course? These are just a few of the important discussions a principal needs to have with an agent.
An Advanced Health Care Directive is a powerful tool that allows individuals to nominate trusted individuals to make health care decisions on their behalf. If you need assistance in the preparation of an Advanced Health Care Directive or any other estate planning document, please contact Victor Herrera at Carmel & Naccasha.