Everything from religion to family history and personal preference influence your feelings about medical treatments. For example, if you watched your grandfather struggle while caring for your grandmother on life support, you may have decided long ago that you don’t want your loved ones to take heroic measures to keep you alive.
On the other hand, you may be healthy and young enough to justify taking any and all measures if you have an unexpected medical emergency. Most of the time, you get to speak up and let hospital staff know about what care you want to receive. However, if an injury or medical event leaves you suddenly incapacitated, you won’t be able to communicate your wishes to others.
Instead, you will have to rely on your closest family members to speak for you or rely on the best practices of the local hospital. Do your loved ones know your medical wishes, and do they have the authority to speak on your behalf?
Maybe you watched a movie where an organ transplant saved the main character. You may have told your spouse after watching that movie together that you hope to be an organ donor if the circumstances allowed for such generosity. Unfortunately, in the tragic moments after a car crash when your spouse may have to make critical decisions about your care and other medical preferences, they may not recall a single conversation from years ago.
The best and most effective way to communicate your medical wishes to your loved ones involves creating an advance medical directive. In this document, you explicitly outline your medical preferences on everything from pain management and life support to organ donation and blood transfusions. Such a document will guide your loved ones making decisions for you and the medical professional providing you with care.
A medical power of attorney authorizes someone other than a spouse, such as a child or a close friend, to make medical decisions for you. A power of attorney can be a useful tool because it doesn’t require that you address every possible medical scenario but instead that you name someone you trust to make decisions on your behalf.
Both of these tools can offer you protection and peace of mind, which makes them worth considering when you plan your estate.