WHO’S GOING TO SIGN FOR ME AT THE DOCTOR’S OFFICE?
I have long been a proponent of planning for the “what IF’s” in life. What IF you get sick and are in such poor health that you cannot clearly communicate with your doctor? What IF you are unable to properly or fully understand your own medical records? What IF you need a procedure and cannot physically sign to authorize it?
In light of the continuing debate over health care reform, there is a renewed interest in the creation and enforceability of health care advance directives (“Advance Directives”). With Advance Directives, you can document your wishes that either: (a) provide directions to a physician or health care provider regarding the administration or termination of life-sustaining medical treatment following terminal illness where recovery is impossible or in the case of permanent unconsciousness (this document is also known as a “living will”); or (b) appoint a specified health care agent to make such health care decisions on your behalf in these situations, or at any time when you is not able to make his own decisions (also known as a “Surrogate”). In either situation, an adult individual has the authority to create explicit, legally enforceable directives which his health care providers are required to either comply with or transfer the patient to another health care provider who will comply with the directive.
Without proper documents, there is uncertainty as to decision-making when you need it the most! You want your doctor to have a trusted person to talk to and to make decisions. You want that person to be instantly authorized. You do not want to have your kids have to go to a judge to become your court-appointed guardian. In an emergency, when there is not time to seek a court order, a patient without a surrogate or authorized person under the statute, who suffers an accident or illness and therefore is unable to give informed written consent to medical treatment may have his medical decisions made by the hospital and not the family. Naming a surrogate to make medical decisions may not only be important for each of you reading this blog, but it may also be important to consider for those of you who have adult children without families of their own.
As such, it is important that every person of the legal age of 18 who is competent to at least consider creating Advance Directives to ensure that his wishes are carried out following a catastrophic illness or injury, and to guarantee that those persons a patient would want directing his medical and end-of-life care be included in the decision-making process!
Ms. Rignanese is the Founding Member and Managing Partner of Rignanese & Associates; she has been practicing law in Winter Haven, Central Florida since 1991. Her practice focuses in estate planning, business, corporate and real property law.
Rignanese & Associates is available to work with clients on their individual advanced directives and estate planning. Please reach out to us at our new headquarters at 203 Avenue A, NW, Suite, 101, Winter Haven, Florida 33881 at 863.294.1114.
© Cynthia Crofoot Rignanese, Esquire