Palm Springs Law Blog

Monday, January 15, 2024

Clear Choices, Clear Care: Simplifying Advance Medical Directive for Desert Communities

Discussions about advanced care planning are difficult, but if you should become seriously ill, knowing your wishes will help your family cope with end-of-life decisions. Telling loved ones about your preferences is a good start. Putting those preferences in a legal document called an advanced directive is even better. 

What is an advanced medical directive?

Advanced medical directives typically include a durable power of attorney for healthcare and a living will. The two directives work together to provide instructions for your medical care if you are unable to advocate for yourself. 

Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care

This document names your healthcare proxy — the person who will make healthcare decisions on your behalf if needed. Your representative should be someone who knows you well and with whom you have discussed your healthcare wishes. 

Being named as the durable power of attorney for healthcare gives that person the legal power to make healthcare decisions on your behalf. Having a healthcare surrogate helps you plan for unforeseen medical emergencies like a stroke. 

Living Will

A living will is a legal document that informs your medical team which treatments you do and do not want during an emergency and which conditions your choices apply to. Having a living will helps your durable power of attorney for health care know they are making the decisions you would make if you were able.  

Who needs an advanced medical directive?

A medical crisis can strike at any time. Advanced planning for medical care isn’t just for people who are old or seriously ill. Planning at any age will ensure your medical team knows your preferences and that someone you trust will be advocating for your care. 

Creating an Advanced Medical Directive

In California, advanced medical directives need to be written documents. An Advanced Estate Planning attorney will help you with every step of creating and formalizing this document. Relying on an experienced attorney will ensure your medical directive is in order. 

Once it has been completed, review your directives with your regular physician. Also, consider taking the following precautions:

  • Keep the original documents in a safe but accessible place

  • Give a copy to your healthcare provider

  • Talk to your closest family members about your advance directive

  • Carry a card that indicates you have advance directives and where the verifying documents can be found

  • Bring a copy of your directives with you when you travel

You can change your directives at any time. If your health status changes or there are advances in healthcare technology, you can make new directives to reflect your new preferences. Some reasons for updating advanced directives include getting a new diagnosis and changes in marital status. Advanced directives should be reviewed and updated about every ten years. 

Does an advance health directive guarantee my wishes will be honored?

You cannot plan for every medical scenario. There may be circumstances in which your wishes cannot be followed exactly. If there is a complex medical emergency, your proxy may be unclear on your wishes. 

A healthcare provider may refuse to follow your directive if it goes against the hospital’s policy or accepted standards of healthcare. Rarely, the instructions in an advanced directive may go against the health provider’s conscience or personal beliefs. If this happens, the provider is obligated to speak with the healthcare proxy and allow your care to be transferred to another provider. 

Start Preparing an Advanced Medical Directive Today

Start your advanced medical care planning by reflecting on your personal wishes. You may want to speak with your physician or spiritual advisor to make decisions you are fully comfortable with. Once you are ready to put your wishes on paper, schedule an appointment with one of the experienced advanced estate planning lawyers at Heritage Legal, PC, in Palm Springs, CA.

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