Healthcare Proxy

living will document

A California advance directive, a healthcare proxy or living will, is a legal document allowing an individual to appoint a person as their healthcare agent. If you become incapacitated and cannot communicate your healthcare decisions, your healthcare proxy will have the legal authority to make decisions for you. An advance healthcare directive should also include instructions about what types of end-of-life care you would like to receive. 

Attorney Christopher Heritage has extensive experience helping Palm Springs clients create healthcare proxies. He is prepared to answer your questions and discuss your options. Creating this simple yet important legal document can help you prepare for the future and ensure your medical decisions are implemented. He understands that discussing end-of-life matters can be challenging and provides clients compassionate legal counsel. 

What is a Healthcare Proxy?

A healthcare proxy, or advance directive, allows you to state your wishes regarding end-of-life or emergency healthcare. An advance directive also allows you to appoint a healthcare proxy, also called a healthcare agent to make medical decisions if you can no longer communicate independently. 

When you create an advance directive, your medical staff and family members won’t have to guess about what decisions you would have made if you could communicate with them. Completing an advance directive can also help you avoid unnecessary medical expenses at the end of your life. 

What Happens If I Don’t Appoint a Healthcare Proxy?

If you haven't appointed a healthcare proxy or agent,  the medical decision-making process can become complicated. Physicians will generally try to locate your family, friends, or clergy to make decisions about your health care. When disputes arise over what types of decisions you would want, your loved ones may be required to go to court. 

The Importance of Documenting Your Medical Wishes

If your family already knows your decisions in an end-of-life situation, you may wonder whether you still need to complete an advance healthcare directive. Writing down your wishes in an enforceable legal document can help you ensure your wishes will be followed. Relationships can change over time, even with close friends and family. You may no longer be as close to the person you talked to about your wishes when a medical emergency occurs. In other cases, your loved one may have difficulty following your verbal instructions at the moment. 

Suppose a person decides he or she wouldn’t like to receive nutrition and hydration in an end-of-life situation. A relative may initially say he will enforce those wishes, but in an emergency, he may ask the doctors to employ life-sustaining treatments. 

When you have a legally enforceable advance healthcare directive in California, your agent is legally required to make decisions based on the wishes you’ve stated in writing. One of the greatest gifts you can give your loved ones is to relieve them of the burden of determining which medical choices you’d like to make at the end of your life.

What If I Want to Change My Advance Healthcare Directive?

Under California law, you can change your advance healthcare directive at any time until you lose your ability to make and communicate healthcare decisions. You have the legal right to change and update your document as many times as you want. 

To do so, you’ll need to change and complete a new advanced healthcare directive and destroy the old one. Your most recently dated advance healthcare directive will be the legally enforceable document that will be acted upon. Ensure your doctors, caregivers, healthcare agents, and loved ones receive a copy of the most recent version of your healthcare proxy.

How to Choose a Health Care Proxy

Choosing your healthcare proxy or agent is important to ensure your wishes will be carried out. Your healthcare proxy must be someone over 18 who is of sound mind. When deciding who to act as your healthcare proxy, appoint a person you trust who can clearly communicate your wishes to your medical team. Many people choose a relative or friend. Others choose an attorney or fiduciary to act as their healthcare proxy. 

It’s important to communicate with your healthcare agent about your wishes throughout your advance care planning conversations. Ensure they are willing to advocate for the type of medical care you’ve chosen. It’s also important to select an alternate healthcare agent in case your agent is unable or unwilling to fulfill the role of your healthcare proxy.

Decisions Your Healthcare Proxy Can Make For You

Your healthcare proxy will have the legal authority to make healthcare decisions for you should you become unable or unwilling to communicate for yourself. These types of healthcare decisions include the following:

  • Choosing your doctor, specialist, or other healthcare provider 
  • Speaking with your healthcare team about your medical condition and treatment options
  • Reviewing your medical record 
  • Authorizing the release of your medical record when necessary
  • Accepting or refusing specific types of medical treatments for you
  • Consenting to organ and tissue donation
  • Authorizing an autopsy 
  • Arranging for the care of your body after death

When Will the Provisions in My Advance Healthcare Directive Go into Effect?

Most people choose for their Advanced Health directives to become effective only when they can no longer understand decisions about their health care or communicate their wishes. In this case, your healthcare agent will not be able to make decisions regarding your health care unless and until a doctor has declared you to be incapacitated and another doctor has confirmed the first doctor's diagnosis. However, you do have the option of choosing to allow your healthcare agent to speak on your behalf at any time, even if you can communicate your own decisions.

Contact a Healthcare Proxy Attorney in Palm Springs

Creating a healthcare proxy or advance healthcare directive allows you to clarify your desires regarding life-sustaining and life-saving medical treatment. After you create an advance healthcare directive, you can enjoy the peace of mind that comes with knowing your wishes have been communicated clearly in a legally enforceable document. 

Don’t hesitate to contact Heritage Legal, PC to schedule an initial consultation and learn how attorney Christopher Heritage can help you create, modify, or revoke a California advance healthcare directive.

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