There is some popular confusion about the difference between living wills and healthcare proxies. The difference between the two can be summed up easily. Living wills specify your wishes directly to doctors and health care providers. That’s why they are often also called advance medical directives. Essentially, in a medical directive you will instruct your caretakers to either continue life support or not, depending on the circumstances. In Hawaii, they are called Advance Health-Care Directives.
Governed By Statute
In Hawaii, our Advance Health-Care Directives have several parts. First, they allow you to nominate who you want making medical decisions for you if you cannot make or communicate your own decisions. Second, they give guidance to your agent about the types of decisions he or she will be making. Finally, they inform your medical team whether or not you would like to be an organ donor.
Open to Interpretation
Like all written documents, the terms of your Advance Health-Care Directive are subject to interpretation. Different hospitals and doctors may come to different conclusions or have different interpretation policies in place, so in some cases Advance Health-Care Directives are not followed to the letter. That is not to say that a patient’s wishes aren’t taken very seriously, because they are, and creating an Advance Health-Care Directive is one of the best ways to have a say in your medical care when you can’t actually have a say in your medical care.
Choosing the Right Agent
Because the role of health care agent is obviously very important, you need to choose the right person. It has to be a person with clarity and resolve, an ability to understand important medical information, and a willingness to fulfill your wishes, whatever they may be. It also should be a person with whom you are very, very close. That’s important, because you’ll want to have in-depth discussions with that person about your wishes in certain circumstances. Only then can your health care agent actually be an effective agent for you, because with clarity comes understanding and a willingness to act.
Farther Into the Rabbit Hole
Once you get an Advanced Health-Care Directive in place, it’s time to ask another question: Who will make medical decisions on behalf of your minor children if you are incapacitated? It’s simply not enough to only plan for yourself. You have to put in place a plan that takes the stress off of your family and puts it onto a person who has accepted responsibility (the health care agent), and your plan must also include provisions for the care of your children. You have to think of everything! Well . . . not really. Keep reading.
We’ve Thought of Everything
You don’t have to think of everything because we’ve already done that! It’s our job to set up comprehensive estate plans for each of our unique clients. The fact is that no two situations are exactly alike, so you need a customized plan. Only then can you rest assured that the needs of your loved ones will be met. If you’d like to discuss estate planning with us, which includes the creation of Advanced Health-Care Directives, call us today at 244-3905.
Image Credit: Obenauf Law Group