The recent high profile case regarding a brain-dead pregnant Texas woman being kept alive because of a state law has many thinking about end of life choices. The law says that life sustaining treatment can’t be withheld from a pregnant patient. However, a judge ruled that the law does not apply in this situation since the woman is no longer living. While this particular law applies regardless of the mother’s end of life wishes, the situation has many thinking about what they would want and how to take the decision-making burden off their families. To ensure your choices are respected, consider the following three steps.
- Designate a surrogate. Sometimes called a proxy or health care agent, a surrogate is a person you assign to speak for you when you are unable to communicate. This should be someone that understands your wishes and a person you trust to carry them out. Think carefully. Many automatically choose a spouse or parent. However, they may not be the best choice since their judgment may be clouded by emotion. Choose someone with a firm disposition. They may need to fight on your behalf.
- Analyze your choices. End of life choices involve more than just whether you want to be on life support or not. Do you want CPR if your heart stops? Do you want to be intubated if you can’t breathe on your own? Do religious beliefs play a role? For example, some individuals do not want a blood transfusion even if it means they will die without one.
- Get it in writing. A living will is used to spell out your wishes when it comes to life-sustaining medical treatment. However, a Medical Power of Attorney is the best way to comprehensively record all your wishes. Going beyond a living will, the Medical Power of Attorney details everything, including specific treatments you will accept and other personal preferences. Both the living will and the Medical Power of Attorney are considered advance directives.
There are many details to be discussed when considering end of life choices and laws vary by state. Consulting an attorney experienced in Texas law can ensure your wishes are carried out. Ford + Bergner LLP specializes in estate planning, including the creation of advance directives. Contact us for a consultation.