An Advance Health Care Directive is a legal device commonly used in incapacity planning that allows you to name a person to make medical decisions for you in case you should become disabled. You may have also heard this legal document referred to as a Medical Power of Attorney or a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care. The person that you name to make medical decisions for you may be called your agent or advocate.
Along with your medical decisions, the Directive also lets your health care advocate and doctors know your wishes regarding how long you should be left on life support, if it is needed.
Helps Avoid Conservatorship
The main benefit of a health care directive is that it helps you to avoid a conservatorship, which is a court proceeding that declares you mentally disabled and names someone to make choices for you. A conservatorship takes your choice of medical agent out of your hands and places in the hands of a court who may not know you and therefore may not be able to decide what it best for you. Often in a conservatorship, your chosen guardian may make a medical decision such as leaving you on life support, when you would prefer to be removed from it. To avoid this, make sure to legally document your medical wishes.
Must Comply With State Laws
In order to create an effective advance health care directive, you must be an adult and mentally stable at the time that you sign. If a court deems you were already mentally disabled when you created your Directive, a conservatorship may be instituted instead.
You should speak with your attorney to determine what other rules apply including: who can sign as a witness and what provisions you can include.