Advance medical directives, including living wills, are an important tool for individuals to ensure that their wishes are respected when they are no longer able to make decisions about their own medical care. These documents provide guidance to medical professionals and family members, reducing the likelihood of disagreements and ensuring that the individual’s preferences are followed.
Living wills are legal documents that specify an individual’s preferences for medical treatment and end-of-life care. They typically include instructions for medical interventions such as CPR, artificial nutrition and hydration, and mechanical ventilation, as well as guidance for pain management and comfort care. By providing these instructions in advance, individuals can ensure that their wishes are respected even if they are unable to communicate or make decisions for themselves.
In addition to living wills, advance medical directives can also include durable power of attorney for healthcare. This document designates an individual to make medical decisions on behalf of the patient if they become incapacitated or are unable to communicate their wishes. This ensures that the individual’s preferences are followed even if their wishes are not specifically outlined in a living will.
The importance of advance medical directives and living wills is underscored by the fact that medical decisions can often be complex and emotionally charged, particularly at the end of life. By providing clear guidance in advance, individuals can help to ease the burden on family members and ensure that their own preferences are followed.
Advance medical directives are also important in terms of ensuring that medical resources are used appropriately. By providing clear guidance on end-of-life care, individuals can avoid unnecessary medical interventions and reduce the strain on healthcare systems. This can be particularly important in cases where medical resources are limited, such as during a pandemic or other healthcare crisis.
Advance Medical Directives are Not Just for the Elderly
Elderly persons are not the only ones who need advance directives. Parents of young adults over 18 can’t automatically make health care decisions for their children. The child would have to give the parent that authority by executing an advance directive. This is particularly important when a child leaves for college or starts to travel. That child should designate a health care agent and give health care instructions in case they suffer from a serious illness or injury. Some colleges even have a form for this where the child can designate the parent.
Advance Medical Directives Must Comply with HIPAA
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) plays a significant role in the context of advance medical directives.
HIPAA establishes strict privacy rules that govern the sharing of an individual’s medical information. This means that medical providers cannot disclose your health information to anyone, including family members, without your explicit consent.
In an advance medical directive, you can specify who is authorized to access your medical records. This is crucial because, without such authorization, your designated health care agent or family members may find it difficult to make informed decisions on your behalf.
Including a HIPAA release form in your advance care directive can streamline the medical decision-making process. It ensures that the person you’ve designated to make health care decisions for you has immediate access to your medical records.
Medical providers are more likely to honor an advance care directive that complies with HIPAA regulations. This is because they can share necessary medical information without fearing legal repercussions.
Some states have their own privacy laws that work in conjunction with HIPAA. An advance care directive that is compliant with HIPAA is generally also compliant with state laws, making it more universally applicable.
In urgent medical situations, having an advance care directive that includes a HIPAA authorization can expedite treatment, as doctors can quickly consult with your health care agent about your medical history and preferences.
Advance medical directives and living wills are essential tools for individuals to ensure that their preferences for medical treatment and end-of-life care are respected. These documents can reduce the likelihood of disagreements and ensure that medical resources are used appropriately. By taking the time to create these documents, individuals can have peace of mind knowing that their wishes will be respected and that they have taken steps to ease the burden on their loved ones during a difficult time. For information on how an advance medical directive or living will can protect you and your family, please contact us today.