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.