There may come a day when you need medical care but you aren’t in a position to make your own medical decisions. Maybe you are in a coma because you were in a car crash, or maybe you suffered a pulmonary embolism.
Any medical event that renders you unconscious or unable to communicate could leave you unable to make your own medical choices. You have numerous ways to protect against this exact situation when planning your estate. Medical powers of attorney allow people to name someone else to make decisions about their treatment, while HIPAA paperwork allows someone you trust access to medical information about you.
An advance directive also allows you to leave instructions about your medical preferences. What issues should you address in your advance directive?
Your feelings on life support and pain management
Different people have different attitudes both about how to handle pain and how much medical intervention they want in a worst-case scenario.
Someone already struggling with a terminal illness may prioritize their own comfort and once aggressive pain management and minimal life support. Someone relatively young and healthy may want heroic interventions in an emergency medical situation and minimal pain management to reduce the likelihood of chemical dependence.
Thinking about your priorities and medical needs can help you guide the care you receive during a period of incapacitation.
Important limitations or restrictions on the care that you receive
Some people have religious beliefs that impact what kind of treatment they undergo. For example, some people refuse certain medications because of how doctors developed them. Others have a belief that makes blood transfusions unacceptable. If you have personal beliefs that impact the care you want to receive, including that information in your advance directive is important.
Your feelings about what happens if you die
One of the most difficult decisions family members have to make when someone dies is often whether to donate organs and tissues. If you haven’t left behind conclusive documentation on this matter, you may want to clarify your position so that your loved ones of hold your wishes and not their own preferences.
Creating an advance directive won’t just protect you by making your wishes clear. It will also protect the people that you love the most by reducing the pressure on them during what will likely be a very difficult time. Careful estate planning, included the creation of advance directives and other medical documents, can help you protect yourself in an unpredictable world.