What happens if you need medical care, but you are unable to make decisions about the kind of care you would like or how that care should be administered?
You can plan ahead in case you are ever incapacitated when a decision needs to be made about your medical care. Advanced medical directives are a method for you to express your wishes for your own medical care. They are advanced because you are making these decisions before the medical care is necessary.
Advanced medical directives include Health Care Surrogate Designation and Living Wills. For more information on Living Wills, read our article on that topic HERE.
When a medical decision must be made but the individual is incapacitated, those decisions often fall to spouses or close relatives. Specifically designating a Health Care Surrogate will help to ensure that your wishes are followed by your medical professional.
What Is a Health Care Surrogate?
A Health Care Surrogate is a Power of Attorney that is specifically granted to make medical decisions. This means that if you are deemed unable to make medical care decisions, but a decision must be made, the designated individual can make the decisions on your behalf.
In the Health Care Surrogate Designation, you are also able to decide who will be nominated to be appointed as your guardian if that becomes necessary.
Sometimes people will have both a Living Will and designate someone to make medical decisions for them. In the case that the two conflict it is important to make sure that an attorney helps you make clear which document will prevail.
Why Should You Designate a Health Care Surrogate?
Unfortunately, if someone has not designated a Health Care Surrogate and an emergency medical decision needs to be made, the family members may disagree about how the doctor should proceed. Not only does this delay the decision and burden the doctor, but it also detracts from the possibility of your actual wishes being carried out.
By expressing your preferred Health Care Surrogate, you are conveying to the doctor your wishes for how the decision should be made.
We recommend talking to the individual that you are going to designate as your Health Care Surrogate. You should discuss with them that you intend to designate them as your Health Care Surrogate and make sure that they are willing to serve in this position for you. Even though it is a difficult conversation to have, you should also discuss different scenarios in which they may be required to make a medical care decision on your behalf. An open communication of your wishes is important so that the Health Care Surrogate can best act on your behalf.
It is important to have an attorney help you draft the appropriate language so that you ensure your wishes are carried out. Although we hope that your Health Care Surrogate will not need to make any medical decisions for you, it is necessary to have a legal document outlining your wishes. In addition to the Health Care Surrogate Designation, creating a Living Will is another way of ensuring your wishes are carried out.
If you have any questions about designating a Health Care Surrogate or want to know more about advanced medical directives and the essentials of an estate plan, contact The Probate Law Firm. We are here to help figure out the best options for you.