Why Everyone should have a Healthcare Directive

Posted on: September 15th, 2014 by Mark R. Friedman

On a warm Florida night in February 1990, Terri Schiavo collapsed in her hallway.  The 26-year-old had suffered a cardiac arrest and fallen into a permanent coma.  When it became clear she would never recover, her husband sought to terminate life support, while her parents sought to keep her alive artificially.  This disagreement sparked a furious legal battle and a national debate on religion, morality, mortality, autonomy and the right to die.

It also showed why everyone should have an advance directive for healthcare (ADH) that makes their own wishes clear.

An ADH is a document that takes effect if you are no longer able to communicate your healthcare wishes.  For example, if you were unconscious in a coma, unable to understand decisions due to dementia, or unable to speak or write after a stroke.

An ADH contains an instruction directive and proxy directive.  Your instruction directive (a.k.a. living will) sets forth your medical wishes.  It should make clear your wishes regarding artificial life support if you were unconscious in a permanent vegetative state, or the final stages of a terminal illness.  It should also set forth your wishes on experimental treatments, addictive pain therapies, any religious objections to treatment, etc.

In a proxy directive, you can appoint someone to be your healthcare representative, who can make medical decisions for you when you are unable.  You should also grant your healthcare representative access to your protected patient information in the ADH.  Otherwise, doctors may refuse to provide any information to your representative, citing HIPAA.  If you have any family tension, you may also want to designate someone to manage who can visit you in the hospital.

Medical care is one of the most important and personal issues most people will ever face.  With an advance directive, you can ensure your wishes regarding your medical care will be heeded.  At FriedmanLaw, we will work with you to craft an advance directive that thoroughly implements your wishes.  Call us today at (908) 704-1900 to make an appointment.

As this website provides general information and isn’t tailored to your particular situation, it doesn’t constitute legal advice and may not take into account rules and exceptions that affect you. Although updated from time to time, this website may not take account of recent legal developments or differences in laws from state to state. For safety sake, obtain individual legal advice before you act! You assume all risk of acting on information contained in this website. This website doesn’t constitute legal advice, and no attorney-client relationship exists unless FriedmanLaw and you execute a written engagement agreement. Please contact us at 908-704-1900 to discuss engaging FriedmanLaw to help resolve your legal concerns.
Homepage photo: Cows grazing at Meadowbrook Farm, Bernardsville, NJ by Siddharth Mallya. October 23, 2012.
Interior photo: Somerset hills pastoral scene by Lawrence Friedman.