COVID-19 is an unpredictable illness that can quickly turn a healthy individual into someone fighting for their life in a hospital. While the virus does not need to cause panic, the fact that it can act so quickly should make you think more carefully about making a plan to get your healthcare wishes down in writing. Here is a closer look at some of the questions, particularly those relating to your healthcare decisions, that should be addressed in light of the pandemic and its effects.
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What is the difference between a Living Will, Medical Power of Attorney, and Advance Directive?
When making an advance care plan, it’s easy to get confused by the many different terms and documents available. The three main types are:
- Living Will – This document tells your loved ones and doctors the medical treatments you do and don’t want to keep you alive in a serious illness or after an accident. This document applies only to deathbed concerns and life-sustaining measures in these instances.
- Medical Power of Attorney – This document names an agent who will make medical and healthcare decisions if you cannot do so for yourself. This document can cover all types of healthcare decisions, not just those that affect end-of-life and life-prolonging measures.
- Advance Directive – This document explains how you want medical decisions made when you cannot make those decisions or communicate them yourself. An Advance Directive can include a Living Will and a Medical Power of Attorney.
An advance care plan often includes a document that explains your healthcare wishes in specific types of situations and a document that appoints a healthcare representative to advocate for your wishes and make decisions on your behalf. Some documents contain both, like the Advance Directive. Different states have different names and rules for these documents. Rocket Lawyer documents automatically align with your state’s requirements when you choose your state at the beginning of the Make Document process.
Will a Do-Not-Resuscitate Order (DNR) prevent me from receiving a ventilator if I need one?
No. A DNR instructs your doctors not to perform CPR if you stop breathing or your heart stops beating. Many times, especially in COVID-19 patients, doctors order ventilation before this happens. If someone has specific instructions about ventilator use, that could be included in a Living Will or Advance Directive. If the instructions are specific to treatment for COVID-19, a COVID-19 addendum could be added to an existing advance care plan.
What is a COVID-19 addendum, and do I need one?
COVID-19 has brought many unique medical concerns to the advance care planning field. People may have different choices for deathbed interventions, DNR orders, ventilator use, and other procedures if they come down with COVID-19 than they do if they have other illnesses or injuries. If you’re considering updating your advance care plan to address COVID-19, you may want a COVID-19 addendum.
A COVID-19 addendum adds specific instructions to your Living Will or Healthcare Power of Attorney that outline your wishes for care if you are treated for COVID-19. For example, you may have a DNR in your advance care plan, but you may wish to nullify that in the specific situation where you have a COVID-19 infection. Because COVID-19 patients are not allowed visitors, you may want to add a HIPAA Authorization form that indicates which individuals, such as your spouse or adult children, can get your medical information while you are in the hospital.
Many attorneys are recommending that the most vulnerable add a COVID-19 addendum. If you become infected with the virus and take a turn for the worse, it can move quickly, and you may not have time to address these concerns. If you are wondering whether or not you need this additional information, consult with a Rocket Lawyer On Call® attorney for fast and affordable legal advice.
What other legal documents should I consider preparing in light of COVID-19?
There are some additional legal documents you may wish to add to your overall pandemic preparedness plan. These include:
- Pet Foster Care Agreement – This document states who will take care of your pets if you are in the hospital for an extended period of time.
- Child Care Authorization – If you have minor children, this document will give another party legal permission to take care of them if you are incapacitated.
- Living Trust – A trust moves your assets from being owned by you to being owned by the trust, so they are not stuck in probate if you pass away. This makes it easier for your loved ones to access their inheritance after your death.
For more advice about estate and advance care planning during the pandemic, check out these Coronavirus Legal Resources.
This article contains general legal information and does not contain legal advice. Rocket Lawyer is not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. The law is complex and changes often. For legal advice, please ask a lawyer.