Often when you attend a doctor’s appointment in Maine, one of the questions that will be asked of you at registration or check-in, is whether you have a “living will” or “advanced healthcare directive” and if so, if it is on file with the provider. Your answer may be a simple “yes” or “no”, but this blog is intended to address what a living will or healthcare directive is; the reasons you might consider having one; and how it might benefit you among your other estate planning, end-of-life or general healthcare-planning needs.
Don’t Wait to Prepare Your Living Will or Healthcare Directive
It’s important to keep in mind that preparing a living will or healthcare directive, though it addresses difficult subject matter, is best handled at a time when such decisions are not urgent or when end of life is not necessarily expected or imminent. This form merely prepares you for and directs your healthcare and treatment in the event of certain circumstances. It is a helpful document for guiding healthcare providers and those who love you in difficult circumstances, but more importantly for honoring your personal wishes when you otherwise may not be capable of expressing them.
What is a Living Will or Healthcare Directive?
You have the right to give instructions about your own healthcare and to name someone else to make healthcare decisions for you if you desire to do so. A living will or advanced healthcare directive is a written document used to provide information and instructions about the type of healthcare and treatment you desire, including, without limitation, in the event that you are unable to provide such information in real time due to incapacity. This document can range in scope and specificity and is often part of an estate planning process.
You can use the Maine statutory form found here or a different or more robust form prepared by an attorney or advisor. This document allows you to express your wishes regarding the following matters, among any other aspect of your healthcare:
- Optional naming of an agent to make healthcare decisions for you (now, even though you are still capable of making such decisions, or in the alternative, for you in the event you’re incapacitated);
- If applicable, the scope of such agent’s authority regarding such decisions (unless the form you sign limits the authority of your agent, your agent may make all healthcare decisions for you- you need not limit the authority of your agent if you wish to rely on your agent for all healthcare decisions);
- Designation of a primary physician to have responsibility for your healthcare;
- choices to prolong or not prolong life under specified circumstances and the extent to which you desire provision or withdrawal of life sustaining treatment- e.g. artificial nutrition and hydration, and other forms of life sustaining treatment;
- Orders to resuscitate or not resuscitate (cardiopulmonary resuscitation);
- Pain relief direction;
- Donation of organs, tissues, and parts;
- authorization of an autopsy;
- disposition of remains; and
- any other specified wishes regarding physical and mental healthcare, treatment, services, procedures, measures and other end-of-life decisions.
Advance healthcare directives are only one part of planning to put in place to ensure your wishes are honored at a time when you might otherwise not be able to give instructions (e.g. to a healthcare provider, hospital or doctor).
How Are They Beneficial/Reasons for Having Them?
In many cases, end of life or significant healthcare events are not planned events or predicted events. For close friends, caretakers, and family-members, these are among the most stress-inducing events to witness someone you love in a compromised mental or physical health situation. A healthcare directive or living will can take the guesswork and certain stressful decision-making considerations out of the equation in a moment of need. They also can ensure the comfort of the person undergoing the healthcare event and the fulfillment of one’s personal wishes around difficult end-of-life or extreme-event situations. Additionally, for some people disposition of remains is also a cultural, religious or spiritual preference and the living will can ensure such preferences are fulfilled.
How Can Rogoway Law Group Assist?
Rogoway Law Group can help you prepare your living will or healthcare directive and walk you through the options in an informed and clear manner. Rogoway Law Group can also prepare other documents such as a last will and testament; a pour-over will; various types of trusts (revocable, irrevocable, life insurance, etc.); guardianships; powers of attorney; and other estate planning instruments. We understand that these are difficult conversations, sometimes sensitive subject-matters among individuals and families and that’s why we hope to be able to provide a service that can give you comfort that there will not be undesired consequences or surprises for the inevitable events that we all encounter at some point in our lives.