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What Documents Impact Future Health Care?

You can incorporate documents into your estate plan that impact how your family or other appointees make decisions about your future health care. Health care wishes are usually documented in one or more of three forms: a living will, a health care proxy appointment and a do-not-resuscitate order.

You don’t necessarily have to have all of these documents, and a legal professional can help you decide which documents are relevant to your estate and your decisions. Professionals can also help you ensure that language in your documents is as clear and tight as possible so you can avoid misunderstandings or legal hangups in the future.

A do-not-resuscitate order tells medical staff not to attempt life-saving measures if your heart or breathing stops. Measures staff usually initiate in such cases include CPR or defibrillation. Some patients with terminal illnesses–especially those who are very close to the end of the disease cycle–might not benefit from such treatment as they are likely to end up on assisted breathing devices anyway. For some individuals, this is undesirable, so they make arrangements to notify staff that CPR efforts are not necessary in such situations.

If you don’t have a DNR order on file, staff will attempt life-saving measures. You may be put on life-support machines, in which case future decisions may end up with your family. You can ensure such decisions are in keeping with your wishes by appointing a specific health care proxy and providing that person with specific instructions. In some cases, this might also be known as a health care power of attorney.

Other wishes might be included in a living will. Understanding how to convey wishes in a legal, court-recognized manner will help you ensure your end-of-life or emergency care is carried out according to your desires.

Source: National Caregivers Library, “A Guide To Advance Medical Directives,” accessed July 24, 2015

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