Protecting your right to accept or refuse medical treatment isn't something you likely think about on a daily basis. You're young, and you just got married. You're thinking about your bright future, and none of that involves worrying about medical emergencies or being unable to make medical decisions on your own behalf.
But the reality is, unfortunate things do happen, no matter how young you are or what stage of life you are in. And if you were to become unresponsive or unable to make a medical decision, due to an accident, emergency or serious or sudden illness, your family or loved ones cannot read your mind.
Protect your rights and wishes
You may be surprised to learn that even spouses who have talked about their personal views on medical treatment in an emergency often are presented with questions they cannot answer about their spouse's wishes when it comes to medical treatment when they are unable to decide for themselves. Would you want your spouse or loved one to guess in this case, or would you want to be prepared with a legal document in writing, so that doctors and the medical team know exactly what your wishes are?
A health care directive allows you to state your wishes and preferences for medical treatment should you one day become unable to communicate those wishes to medical staff or your family, or unable to decide. Even if it won't be until years down the line, being prepared today can give you and your family peace of mind. You may be thinking of starting a family someday, and you won't want to wait until you're in the midst of becoming a new parent to take care of putting together a health care directive.
A health care directive, sometimes referred to as an advance directive, allows you to legally express what kind of medical treatments you want and designate a person you would like to make health care decisions for you before you are unable to do so on your own. They not only come in handy near the end of your life, but while you're young, they are useful in the case of a medical emergency or accident.
How do you create a health care directive?
Your health care directive comes into play once a doctor determines you are unable to make a medical decision on your own because of your condition. A health care directive is valid after you sign it in the presence of two witnesses. The person you designate to make your medical decisions cannot be a witness.
After you've completed the process to create a health care directive, it's wise to give copies to your spouse or loved ones and your doctors or clinic. Some people bring a copy to the hospital if they are giving birth or undergoing surgery, just in case it may be needed in an emergency situation or if a complication arises.
An attorney skilled in the area of protecting your rights through health care directives can guide you on what the process entails, what you need to decide on, what documents you may need to prepare and answer any other questions you have. You have the right to decide what medical treatments you receive or don't receive - whether you are able to make those decisions or not. Make sure you put that in writing before you become unable to communicate your wishes. Making a health care directive part of your estate planning not only helps you, but helps your family. Having this taken care of can allow you to enjoy life with more peace of mind, knowing your spouse or family won't have to guess what your wishes are down the line.