An Introduction to Living Wills and Health Care Proxies

Having a last will and testament is crucial for the division of assets and property to its respective heirs after someone’s death. However, having a will that directs medical care during urgent moments is just as important. A living will is used to execute one’s desired medical care treatment, especially in the event that one cannot communicate how they wish to be treated and in the event of terminal illness or permanent unconsciousness. For example, living wills were first used when people wished to die a natural death and not be connected to artificial life support or undergo further advanced medical procedures.

Nobody really knows when they may fall victims to an accident, injury or illness. That is why it is important to have health care directive documents like living wills and health care proxies to express how one wishes to be treated. Read on to learn how these two work and preparing them.

Do you want to begin working on your living will or health care proxy? Our McAllen probate lawyers can help. Contact us for a free consultation.

What a Living Will is Used For

A living will is also known as a “healthcare directive” or “directive to physicians” and is applied by medical professionals during life-or-death medical situations. It does not apply to routine medical care treatment or non life-threatening medical conditions. In a living will, a person can decide to withhold treatment, request use of all medical treatments and techniques or request some treatments but reject others. When valid, health care providers must follow the specific instructions that are outlined in one’s living will.

Medical issues that may be addressed in a living will are tube feeding, resuscitation and organ donation, as well as medical machines and techniques that are used to sustain life like heart-lung machines and ventilators. The treatments and techniques specified in a living will have the ability to prolong one’s life temporarily; if not used, death will result.

Although living wills may limit the type of medical care provided near one’s end of life or in an urgent medical situation, medical professionals would never deny someone pain relief medications or anything that would make the patient more comfortable.

When drafting a living will with your attorney, it would be best to consult with your physician to become better informed on the different medical issues you may face and the treatments and techniques that may be utilized for them. Doing so will allow you to have a better idea as to which treatments you will and will not accept.

Health Care Proxy

A health care proxy is also referred to as a “durable medical power of attorney” and is a document used to appoint a person to make important medical decisions on a patient’s behalf if said patient is not able to. Most of the time, this occurs when the patient is unconscious or does not have the mental capacity to express their desired treatment.

Only one person may deliver a patient’s wishes at a time. However, the patient can choose alternate proxies beforehand. A durable power of attorney document differs from a living will in the aspect that the appointed proxy can either be directed to carry out the patient’s living will as it is, or to use their best judgment to choose the treatments and techniques the patient receives.

A proxy can also be specified in a living will document to enforce the will’s specifications. Unlike a living will, a health care proxy document does not require a patient to have a terminal illness or be permanently unconscious in order for the proxy to act on their behalf. It is recommended that people who are planning their estate have a living will and a health care proxy, available for any emergency medical situation.

We Can Help You Get Started

If you never prepare a living will or a health care proxy, a possible consequence may be that your family members may have a difficult time agreeing on the direction of your treatment. It would be beneficial for you, your family and your attending physicians to have these documents ready in the event of any extreme medical situations.

It is important to make sure that once drafted, these highly imperative documents be considered valid. The attorneys at Barrera, Sanchez & Associates, P.C. can help you prepare your legal health care directive documents today. Call 956.287.7555 for more information.

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