Make healthcare decisions FAQs
Making these decisions and drawing up the paperwork is only the first step. Your wishes cannot be followed if no one knows about them. At the minimum, your doctor, family members, and spouse should have a copy of your documents and understand your preferences. Some states also require that you file a request with your Department of Health. Talk with your care provider about how to prepare a DNR for your state. Often you will also be supplied with a wallet card, bracelet, or document to keep on your person as well.
If you are pregnant, your Living Will may not be enforced. Some state laws negate Living Wills in certain situations.
Choosing someone to make health care choices for you may be difficult. The person that may best support your wishes may not be your spouse or close family member. Your family may be too stressed to make good life-saving or end-of-life choices for you. You need to select someone who understands your preferences and one who is steady enough to resist family pressure if needed. To make the task of choosing even more difficult, you need to select two agents, in case one is not available.
When you have a few names selected, discuss with each of them the responsibilities of a health care proxy and your wishes. After the conversation, choose the two that best understand your wishes who are also willing to take on the obligation.
If you have appointed a health care proxy to make medical choices for you should you become incapacitated, you may be wondering how incapacity is determined. Legal incapacity is determined by the courts. Clinical incapacity or temporary incapacity may be an on-the-spot judgment call by your health care medical team or the courts.
Legal incapacity is often challenged when an elderly person can no longer care for themselves or a person loses the cognitive ability to make good health care choices. Health care practitioners, in most cases, cannot override an adult patient's will unless a court order allows it.
This type of incapacity is often temporary and only tied to one situation. For example, a patient while in surgery needs a health choice made for them while they are under general anesthesia. Often in this situation, the choice may be made by a health care practitioner, legal proxy or close family member. As soon as the person is capable, they regain the right to make their own choices.