We have all been sick before. Whether it is from the flu or from a more chronic ailment, we have all experienced, to some degree, the feeling of vulnerability illness brings. While we cannot always avoid illness, we can mitigate the vulnerability by expressing wishes ahead of time.
An Advance Health Care Directive expresses your instructions regarding what health care providers are to do in certain circumstances. For example, you can give instructions to refrain from performing CPR, from putting you on life support, or from performing procedures designed only to prolong your life without hope of recovery. The institutions must abide by your wishes or face legal consequences.
Doris Lee had an Advance Health Care Directive which instructed her nursing home to refrain from performing CPR or other life saving measures. While Doris was in the Riverview Care Center in Louisiana, she was found unresponsive. The nursing home called 911 and the paramedics performed CPR and other measures anyway, despite her specific instructions to the contrary.
Doris died and her daughters were distraught that she was not allowed to pass peacefully as she had wished. Doris’ daughters sued the nursing home for violating her wishes. The nursing home sought to have the court apply the more stringent standards of a medical malpractice action to the case. However, the Louisiana court refused to do so and applied a breach of contract standard making it much easier for Doris’ daughters to prevail against the nursing home.
This case is sending a message to nursing homes and other health care providers: follow your patients’ instructions or face the consequences. This message strengthens your ability to set forth instructions for your health care providers to follow.
In addition to an Advance Health Care Directive, a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care can help facilitate medical decision-making when you are unable to make decisions for yourself. With a health care power of attorney, you name someone as your “agent” to make decisions for you. Of course, this person can only act when you are unable to do so. Your agent can consent to the provision of medical treatment or can withhold such consent. You can name more than one person as your agent and they can serve together if desired. For example, all of your children can serve as your agents.
Few things, if any, are more important than making sure that your health care wishes are carried out. A Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care and an Advance Health Care Directive can make sure that your wishes are carried out, even if you are unable to express those wishes due to your illness.
A qualified estate planning attorney can help you make sure your wishes are carried out, both during periods of illness, as well as after your death.
Mr. Ronald “Chip” Morrison, Jr. is a Board-Certified estate planning attorney, a member of the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys and has been engaged in the practice of estate and elder law for the last 16 years. He can prepare an estate plan for you that achieves your goals of passing your assets to whom you wish and make sure that your selection of guardians for your children is heard by the court. Whatever the outcome is, we are here to answer any questions you have and guide you through your long-term care options, including how to find and pay for any care that’s needed in the least restrictive environment possible. For more information or to attend an upcoming seminar, please call our office in Metairie, Louisiana at 504-831-2348 or contact us through our website.
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