Advance directives are among the most important steps you can take when protecting yourself in the event of possible incapacity. Among these advance directives, two are particularly relevant during the coronavirus pandemic: the healthcare proxy, and the living will. But what are these advance directives, and how do you know which ones are appropriate for you and your needs?
A healthcare proxy is a legal arrangement where another person, usually a family member or close friend, is designated to make healthcare decisions on your behalf if you become unable to make those decisions yourself. Effectively, it allows them to give informed consent for medical treatments and procedures as though they were you. This can potentially go as far as deciding whether to resuscitate you if your heart stops, or whether to move you from standard medical care to palliative care.
By comparison, a living will is a document that lays out what you want for your healthcare in the event of you becoming incapacitated. For example, a common component of many living wills is a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order, which tells your doctors not to attempt to revive you if your breathing or heart stops. A living will can also lay out other aspects of your care, such as what medications or procedures you are willing to authorize to sustain your life.
The benefit of a living will is that, once it has been put into effect, it doesn’t require any further input, either from you or from anyone else. Doctors are legally bound by the instructions in the living will, so you know your wishes will be followed. On the other hand, living wills are inflexible, and can be limited in usefulness for situations that require judgment calls. For that reason, a healthcare proxy can be preferable, although that depends on whether you know someone you trust enough to make potentially major healthcare decisions on your behalf.
If you or a loved one are dealing with legal issues related to forming a healthcare proxy or legal will, or you are dealing with any other issue related to elder law, you’ll need specialized legal advice. The attorneys at Hobson-Williams, P.C. are skilled in all aspects of elder law, and are dedicated to representing clients with diligence and compassion. To speak to an attorney or to schedule a consultation, call 866-825-1LAW.