With the current Covid-19 situation, we are all feeling worried about our potential health issues. There are several legal documents necessary to protect your health and wellbeing.
The first is the Health Care Proxy. This is a document that appoints an Agent to make medical decisions for you if you cannot do so yourself. You can name a primary Agent and an Alternate Agent. The power of your Agent comes into effect when your doctor determines that you cannot make your own medical decisions. The power would end if you recovered the ability to make decisions. Without a Health Care Proxy in place, your family would not be able to make decisions for you without a costly and time-consuming legal guardianship proceeding.
The next necessary tool is a Medical Privacy Release or HIPAA Authorization. This is a document that allows whoever you name to get your private medical information. Federal law prohibits access to your medical information unless you release it. You would obviously name your Health Care Agent and Alternate in this document, but you might also name a few other people that you would want to know about your medical issues, such as someone who helps you with doctor visits or who goes to the pharmacy for you. You might name your Agent under a Power of Attorney so that person could ask questions about medical bills if necessary.
Although not required, and not legally binding, some attorneys suggest that you also complete an Advanced Directive or Living Will. Some people call Health Care Proxies by this same name, so it can get confusing. An advanced directive is usually just a document that contains your wishes for future medical care. It can put in writing what you would want to happen in various situations such as your desire for life support and extreme medical measures, or your desire to avoid such things. You could also state your wishes for feeding tubes, breathing interventions such as ventilators and the like. You could also express your burial wishes.
If you are living with a serious medical condition, your doctor might ask you to consider completing a MOLST (also called a POLST) form. This is a medical order for treatment that can go with you from facility to facility. It contains several sections in which you and your doctor state your wishes for future medical care such as artificial nutrition and hydration, intubation, resuscitation, and a few other medical issues. The orders in this document will be followed by any medical facility in which you may be.
You should discuss all of these planning tools with your family and your legal advisor. By having the discussion and getting the tools in place, you can ease the emotional burdens on your family should you need medical care and be unable to make decisions. You and your chosen Agents should keep copies of all of these documents handy in case you need them. And we all hope that you never do.