Throughout the course of your lifetime, you will make thousands of decisions regarding your own health and medical treatment. Many of those decisions will be routine ones, such as making sure you schedule regular checkups with your primary care physician. Others may be life-changing, such as the decision to undergo chemotherapy treatment. What all of these decisions have in common is your ability to make them yourself. What happens, however, if you are unable to make health care decisions for yourself at some point in your life because of a debilitating illness or incapacitating injury? One way to retain a significant degree of control over your own health care even if you are incapacitated is to execute an advance directive now and incorporate it into your estate plan. The Riverside estate planning lawyers at Dennis M. Sandoval, A Professional Law Corporation explains the advance directives recognized by the State of California.
What Is an Advance Directive?
Advance directives are governed by state law, meaning each state determines which type will be recognized within the state and the language necessary to create a valid advance directive. In general, however, an advance directive is a written statement of a person’s wishes regarding medical treatment that is created and executed to ensure those wishes are carried out should the person be unable to communicate those wishes to a health care professional at some future point in time.
What Advance Directives Does California Recognize?
The State of California recognizes four types of advance directives. You may execute any, or all, of them. The four advance directives available include:
- Power of Attorney for Health Care – this advance directive lets you name someone (your “Agent”) to make decisions about your health care. Unless otherwise written in your advance directive, your Power of Attorney for Health Care becomes effective when your primary doctor determines that you lack the ability to understand the nature and consequences of your health care decisions or the ability to make and communicate your, health care decisions. If you want your Agent to make health care decisions for you now, even though you are still capable of making health care decisions, you can include this instruction in your Power of Attorney for Health Care designation. You can also name an alternate Agent. Unless you limit your Agent’s authority, your Agent may make all health care decisions for you, including:
- Consenting or refusing consent to any care, treatment, service, or procedure to maintain, diagnose, or otherwise affect a physical or mental condition.
- Selecting or discharging health care providers and institutions.
- Approving or disapproving diagnostic tests, surgical procedures, and programs of medication.
- Directing the provision, withholding, or withdrawal of artificial nutrition and hydration and all other forms of health care, including cardiopulmonary resuscitation.
- Making anatomical gifts, authorize an autopsy, and direct disposition of remains.
- Individual Instructions – this is California’s “Living Will.” It allows you to give specific instructions about any aspect of your health care, such as your wishes with regard to the provision, withholding, or withdrawal of treatment to keep you alive, as well as the provision of pain relief.
- Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) – this form applies prior to admission to a hospital and instructs EMS personnel to forgo resuscitation attempts in the event of your cardiopulmonary arrest.
- Physicians Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment (POLST) — this form, used for patients with a serious illness or whose life expectancy is a year or less, outlines a plan of care reflecting the patient’s wishes concerning medical treatment and interventions at life’s end. The POLST form effectively turns your treatment preferences into actionable medical orders by allowing you to make very clear and specific choices regarding your desire to receive life-sustaining treatment versus your desire to be given comfort measures only.
Incorporating an Advance Directive into Your Estate Plan
When properly executed, an advance directive can play an important role in your comprehensive estate plan. The decisions you make in an advance directive, however, may have very serious consequences down the road, highlighting the importance of understanding what each advance directive does and does not do. It is also important to appoint the right person as your Agent and to update that appointment if necessary in the future. Be sure to it down with your estate planning attorney and discuss the inclusion of one, or more, advance directive in your estate plan.
Contact Riverside Medi-Cal Attorneys
If you have additional questions or concerns regarding California advance health care directives, contact the experienced Riverside estate planning lawyers at Dennis M. Sandoval, A Professional Law Corporation by calling (951) 888-1460 to schedule an appointment.