One of my clients recently asked an important question about advance medical directives and whether amending this important legal and medical document is warranted in response to the Coronavirus pandemic.
For context, my client has an advance medical directive stating that they do not want to be put on a ventilator. However, my client expressed a desire to be placed on a ventilator if they are infected with COVID-19. This prompted my client to ask – is it necessary to amend my advance medical directive in light of different treatment wishes for the Coronavirus?
Answer: it is not necessary to amend an advance medical directive (i.e. living will) in this circumstance.
Why Amending an Advance Medical Directive Likely Is Not Needed
In many instances, when someone has an advance medical directive in their estate plan, it typically states their wish not to be put on a ventilator, but ONLY IF a doctors say there is no hope of recovery and medical treatment will not help. In effect, an advance medical directive is triggered in a “worst case” scenario when there is no reasonable likelihood you will be able to recuperate from your condition.
In the context of COVID-19, an advance medical directive would only come into play if your doctor reasonably believes you are terminal and are going to die despite medical treatment.
Do Not Forget About Your Health Care Agent
Another important aspect of an advance medical directive, at least when drafted properly and with the assistance of a skilled trust and estate planning attorney, is the designation of a trusted individual as your health care agent. When you have a legal document designating someone as your health care agent, they are empowered to discuss your desired treatment and medical preferences with your doctor. Your health care agent will be the one making the ultimate decision. The goal is to put your health care agent in the best possible position to make a decision. Executing an Advance Medical Directive is important but it is equally important to have key discussions with your health care agent so they know your wishes ahead of time and are not guessing from a form.
At InSight Law, we ask clients to complete a health care checklist along with the advance medical directive. The checklist helps provide some context for the agent and the goal is to put your agent in the best position possible to make the decision you would have if you could talk to the doctor directly yourself. We created a checklist to ensure our clients have those important discussions with their designated health care agent on specific scenarios and issues that routinely arise in medical emergencies and end-of-life care. So, for example, your health care agent, should know whether you want to be put on a ventilator in the event you are infected with COVID-19 and require the use of a ventilator.
Have Questions? Speak to an Experienced Trust and Estate Lawyer Today
We understand this is a stressful and anxiety-inducing time for everyone. The InSight Law team is here to help. If you have questions about planning your estate, give us a call today. We can talk over the phone and meet through different online platforms such as Zoom, Skype, GoTo Meeting, etc.