ESTATE PLANNING 101: What Can I Put in a Health Care Directive?
You have many choices of what to put in your health care directive. For example, you may include:
The person you trust as your agent to make health care decisions for you.
You can name alternative agents in case the first agent is unavailable, or joint agents.
Your goals, values and preferences about health care.
The types of medical treatment you would want (or not want).
How you want your agent or agents to decide.
Where you want to receive care.
Instructions about artificial nutrition and hydration.
Mental health treatments that use electroshock therapy or neuroleptic medications.
Instructions if you are pregnant.
Donation of organs, tissues and eyes.
Who you would like as your guardian or conservator if there is a court action.
You may be as specific or as general as you wish. You can choose which issues or treatments to deal with in your health care directive.
There are some limits about what you can put in your health care directive. For instance:
Your agent must be at least 18 years of age.
Your agent cannot be your health care provider, unless the health care provider is a family member or you give reasons for the naming of the agent in your directive. You cannot request health care treatment that is outside of reasonable medical practice. You cannot request assisted suicide.
Your health care directive lasts until you change or cancel it. As long as the changes meet the health care directive requirements listed above, you may cancel your directive by any of the following:
A written statement saying you want to cancel it.
Telling at least two other people you want to cancel it.
Writing a new health care directive.
Your health care provider generally will follow your health care directive, or any instructions from your agent, as long as the health care follows reasonable medical practice. But, you or your agent cannot request treatment that will not help you or which the provider cannot provide.
If the provider cannot follow your agent’s directions about life-sustaining treatment, the provider must inform the agent. The provider must also document the notice in your medical record. The provider must allow the agency to arrange to transfer you to another provider who will follow the agent’s directions.