COVID-19 has many people considering their health care. You can appoint someone to speak for you medically and dictate your medical preferences in a document called Advance Health Care Directive (“medical directive”). If you don’t already have a medical directive, you should create one now. This is especially critical for single persons or those who want decisions for their health care made by someone other than their immediate family.
Fortunately, you can create this document yourself. There is a no-frills medical directive for Californians which can be found at the following web address: https://peace.yourcaringhouse.org/directive. There you will find a simple, 4-page document that you can print and complete on your own. You need two witnesses (or a notary) to make it legal. The best part is that the form is free.
In addition to the “Agent’s Authority” recited on the form, the form has lines on which you can write more detailed health care instructions which limit or expand the agent’s authority. For example, when I prepare medical directives for my clients, I include the following information: whether the client wants life support if he or she is in an irreversible coma or persistent vegetative state, whether the client wants to be an organ donor and whether he or she wants to be cremated.
It is very important that you choose the right person to be your agent. That person will have the responsibility to make decisions for you that are not already clearly expressed in the medical directive. The six key factors in choosing an agent are: (1) the person is 18 years of age or older, (2) the person is able to think clearly and act intelligently, (3) the person has the time to oversee your medical care, even if only by phone from across the country, (4) you feel comfortable discussing with that person personal things such as your beliefs and what matters to you, (5) the person can be assertive with medical professionals and family members that don’t agree, and (6) you can comfortably rely on the fact that the person would honor your wishes even if the person disagreed with your directions.
Do yourself a favor and create your Advance Health Care Directive now if you don’t have one. The few minutes you spend will be well worth it if you find yourself in need of medical care. If you don’t have access to a printer, just contact me and I will send the form to you free of charge. © 2020 by Marlene S. Cooper. All rights reserved. (You may obtain further information at the website www.marlenecooperlaw.com, by e-mail at MarleneCooperLaw@gmail.com, by phone at (626) 791-7530 or toll free at (866) 702-7600. The information in this article is of a general nature and not intended as legal advice. Seek the advice of an attorney before acting or relying upon any information in this article).