An advance directive is a complimentary service when you hire Gruber & Associates, P.C. in West Linn, OR for estate planning. Its scope is limited so it works best with other estate planning documents. While it definitely offers advantages and eases health care decision-making for your loved ones, an advance directive also has its limits. That emphasizes the need for a complete estate plan.
An advance directive indicates your health care preferences if you are unable to communicate them to your doctor. It appoints a health care representative who executes these decisions, including any preferences regarding life-sustaining medical treatment.
Apppoints an Advocate
While many people do not want to consider it, there is a possibility that you will suffer injury or illness substantial enough to leave you unable to communicate or make decisions. While healthcare providers use their best discretion, there is another possibility that their decisions will not match your preferences.
The healthcare representative acts as your voice when you cannot speak. Since most clients appoint someone in this capacity that is close to them, this individual understands your motivation and feels honor-bound to respect your wishes. Many clients choose a spouse, sibling or even a good friend to fulfill this role. If you have someone in your life you would prefer for this duty, it is a good idea to execute an advance directive.
Define Course of Health Care
Health care decisions may have religious inclinations, like Jehovah’s Witnesses and their avoidance of blood transfusions. Other times it is simply a preference for particular courses of treatment.
An advance directive allows specific instructions. You can designate specific doctors, health care facilities, and, if you are terminally ill, your choice for hospice care. There may be circumstances where you prefer to continue palliative treatment at home and avoid future hospital visits. If you have detailed preferences like this, you need an advance directive.
Limit Life-Sustaining Medical Procedures
The best-known feature of the advance directive is your decisions regarding life-sustaining medical procedures. Many clients execute one because they do not wish to be kept alive by machines. Others make different choices.
While an advance directive is sufficient for ensuring your wishes are granted, you may also sign Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment or POLST. This is an additional document provided by a doctor, clinic or hospital that remains in your file and removes any doubt of your decision. It is presented not only if you are terminally ill but sometimes before surgical procedures. Do not be surprised if one is presented to you if you are admitted to the hospital.
Advance directives define your course of health treatment but they have their limits. These are reassuring more than inconvenient, especially if you have a finished estate plan.
Indicate Burial Preferences
If you have any burial preferences, you should list them in your will. The advance directive is not an appropriate avenue for expressing this information.
Other options may include pre-planned funerals where you can confirm any religious or personal preferences. If you decide on something different, like donating your remains for study, that requires additional forms and an advance directive is not effective to assure that occurs. Many preferences require additional steps so discuss those first with your attorney before thinking one written note or document guarantees them.
Affect Insurance Coverage
There are concerns that insurance companies may require patients to sign an Advance Directive or face claim denial. This is not legal and any insurance company who insists on this should be reported to the Insurance Commission.
Signing an advance directive has no effect on insurance coverage or at least should have no effect on it. If you are not comfortable with executing an advance directive or feel pressured to do so, do not do it.
There are occasional concerns that the Oregon Death with Dignity Act may authorize health care representatives to choose euthanasia over further treatment, However, the law makes that impossible.
To be eligible for death with dignity, a patient must be a resident of Oregon who is 18 years of age or older. If they are diagnosed with a terminal illness where death is imminent within six months, they must also be capable of communicating their own healthcare decisions at the time they request death with dignity. An attending physician determines whether a patient meets these criteria–not a healthcare representative.
Since the patient must choose and self-administer the euthanasia drugs, physicians cannot be involved at all except to determine if the situation is appropriate for this option. Between the mental capacity requirement and the self-administration one, there is no way that a healthcare representative can authorize this course of action–or legally compel a physician to administer the drugs.
It can be difficult to consider these worst-case scenarios, but taking the time to do so offers reassurance and peace of mind. To start designing your estate plan and long-term care decisions, contact Diane L. Gruber, Attorney at Law today to schedule an appointment.