Many people are aware that estate planning for asset protection and distribution is important. However, not as many understand that preparing for medical situations should also be a part of the plan.
An advance directive for health care outlines a patient’s wishes in the event of illness or injury in which case the patient is unable to express these wishes to the medical team. It also involves naming a trusted agent or guardian.
Advance directive basics
According to Houston Healthcare, an advance directive is a legal document that states a patient’s preferences for medical care. This includes the treatments, such as life-sustaining support, the patient wants and does not want. The directive only goes into effect if the patient is unable to make medical decisions, and a person can change the terms or revoke it at any time.
Part of the health care directive is to name a health care agent, who will be in charge of making sure the physician and other health care professionals carry out the patient’s wishes. The document also allows the creator to name a guardian if there is ever a need for one.
The role of the health care agent
According to the Department of Human Services, Division of Aging Services, the role of the health care agent is important because this person is in charge of making medical decisions when the patient is incapacitated. The agent can:
- Admit or discharge the patient from a health care facility
- Enter the patient into binding contracts
- Consent to, or refuse, any type of medical program, treatment or procedure
- Consent to disclose relevant medical records
- Permit organ donation
- Direct final disposition of the patient’s remains
An agent may not admit the patient to a mental health ward or make decisions regarding sterilization, psychosurgery or addiction.