Minnesota Health Care Directive and Health Care Power of Attorney

Minnesota Health Care
Directive and Health Care Power of Attorney

 

Every day families are placed in the painful position of having to make decisions for
a sick or disabled person with no indication of what the person himself would
have wanted.  Further, without written
evidence of the person’s wishes or without a formally designated
decision-maker, doctors and hospitals, fearing a lawsuit or criminal
prosecution, may refuse to terminate treatment.  This may be the case even if treatment merely
prolongs the patient’s suffering while offering no hope of recovery.  Families may be forced to go to court to
obtain permission to carry out the decision that they believe the patient would
have made.  Not only can the involvement
of outsiders be an unwelcome intrusion into this private matter but also the
publicity that such cases often generate can be painful.

You can avoid these problems by
planning ahead.  By using The Minnesota
Health Care Directive you can document your wishes regarding medical care and
name a person you would like to have make medical decisions for you in the
event that you become incapable of doing so.  Two forms are widely recognized: The Minnesota
Health Care Directive and the Health Care Power of Attorney.

What is The Minnesota Health Care
Directive?

The
Minnesota Health Care Directive is a document in which a competent person
states that he or she does not wish to receive life-prolonging treatment in the
event of a terminal illness or incapacity to make health care decisions.  The Minnesota Health Care Directive law
requires physicians to follow the instructions in The Minnesota Health Care
Directive or to transfer the patient to a provider who will.  It also protects health care providers from
being sued or criminally prosecuted for following the instructions in The
Minnesota Health Care Directive.

It is a good idea to notify your
family and all doctors of your Minnesota Health Care Directive and ask to have
a copy placed in your medical records.  A
health care provider must enter the declaration into your medical record after
receiving a copy of it.  Your physician
must notify you if he is unwilling to comply with your instructions.  You should keep a copy with your other
important papers.  Ask a close friend or
relative and your lawyer to keep a copy.

The Minnesota Health Care Directive
is usually effective for an unlimited time unless revoked by you.  You may be revoked at any time for any reason.
 The Minnesota Health Care Directive
becomes “operative” when the attending physician learns of the declaration and
two physicians have determined that the patient is in a “terminal condition.”

What is a health care power of
attorney?

Because
The Minnesota Health Care Directive is limited to end-of-life decisions, many
people choose to have a second type of directive called a health care power of
attorney or medical power of attorney.  These
allow for health care decisions to be made by someone you choose or a “proxy.”

A health care power of attorney or
medical power of attorney gives your proxy the power to make health care
decisions on your behalf in the event you become unable to do so. Such powers
of attorney may be very broad covering all medical decisions, or may be limited
to specific medical matters.  They also
may contain specific instructions or specific statements of your preferences.

Can I have both?

Yes,
but using both The Minnesota Health Care Directive and a health care power of
attorney may not be necessary.  Your
first priority should be to appoint a decision-maker. He or she will have the
authority to make a decision even in a situation you have not foreseen or left
instructions for.  You should also leave
explicit written directions for your decision-maker about your treatment preference
in various situations to help him or her make the decision you would want.  The health care power of attorney by itself
should allow you to do both of these things.

If you do not have someone whom you
can trust to be your decision-maker, then The Minnesota Health Care Directive
should be used.  You should describe your
medical treatment choices as fully as possible.  If you want to execute both The Minnesota
Health Care Directive and a health care power of attorney, you can do so.  However, be sure to make them consistent so
your decision-maker and others involved in your care will not be confused.  These documents, if carefully drawn up, would
also provide a court with clear evidence of your wishes, should it ever become
necessary for a court to decide for you.

The important thing is to make your
wishes about medical treatment known by putting them in writing and discussing
them with family members, friends, your physician and lawyer.  Many people tend to postpone this step because
the prospect of future illness and incapacity is disturbing and may seem
remote.

If
you would like more information about “The
Minnesota Health Care Directive or Health Care Power of Attorney”
call the
Senior LinkAge Line® at 1-800-333-2433.  The
Senior LinkAge Line®: A One Stop Shop for Minnesota Seniors is a
free statewide service of the Minnesota Board on Aging and Area Agencies on
Aging.  Specialists provide one-to-one assistance with helping older
adults age well and live well.  Call 1-800-333-2433 for assistance Monday
through Friday from 8:00am to 4:30pm or chat with a specialist online during
these hours at www.MinnesotaHelp.info®.

“Our Mission is to identify and promote resources which enhance, empower and enrich seniors to be healthy, safe, and engaged citzens”


 

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