You have likely heard about advance directives such as health care proxies and living wills, but do you know the difference between them, and how each accomplishes your stated wishes? These two legal documents both seek to achieve the same thing, but in much different manners.
A living will is a legal document that states a patient’s wishes regarding medical care in the event that they become incapacitated. Certain procedures may or may not be used if they suffer a stroke, for example, depending on what their living will states. Life sustaining procedures, such as the use of a ventilator to help a patient breathe, tube feeding to keep their body from starving, or the use of a defibrillator to restart their stopped heart are all examples of techniques and procedures that they may or may not want. Because the patient will be either unconscious or unable to make an informed decision because of a permanent or temporary mental condition, this legal document allows them to state the specific medical orders they want to be carried out.
Health Care Proxy
A health care proxy, also called a health care surrogate or a durable medical power of attorney, is a legal document that grants another party the authority to make decisions on behalf of an incapacitated patient. These decisions should be based on what the health care proxy believes the patient would have wanted or what is in the patient’s best interests. The person with power of attorney, contrary to how it sounds, is usually not the patient’s attorney. They are typically a trusted spouse, child, grandchild, or other close family member or friend. A power of attorney or health care proxy allows for more specificity than a living will. That is, there is more leeway for decision making when it comes to health care proxies than for health care directives.
What Determines Incapacitation?
Health care professionals will determine the patient’s capacity for decision making. Obviously, if the patient is unconscious or in a coma, they have no ability to make a decision. In other cases, such as in the aftermath of a traumatic brain injury or stroke, which may result in a patient being conscious but unable to make decisions for themselves, this determination can be more complicated. Typically, a treating physician will have the final say as to whether the patient is legally incapacitated or not. However, another doctor or a psychiatric consultant may provide crucial aid in diagnosis and capacity assessment in some cases.
A Naperville Living Will Attorney Can Answer Your Questions Today
Is a living will or health care proxy the right option for your situation? A DuPage County estate planning attorney can help you decide which is right for you or your loved ones. Call the dedicated Lisle estate planning lawyers of Momkus LLC at 630-434-0400 today to talk over your options.