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Healthcare Directives: Preventing Serious Legal Proceedings

Designating Your Agent in Your Living Will

Quite simply, medical treatment decisions are not always easy. Such decisions almost always involve different amounts of information or knowledge, and often involve weighing the important facts of different sides of an issue. You should make a list of potential agents by considering any adult whom you would trust to make certain serious decisions for you. From this list you should narrow it to one person, if possible, and one substitute. Naturally, you should notify the person you designate so that they can assist you in your decision. It is surprising how many times a person thought they were designating a proper agent, only to learn when it is too late, that that person cannot make decisions for others, or refuses to serve for you in such an important capacity.

When you appoint an agent, be sure to understand that they will be following the wishes which you expressed in your Living Will. They will not be able to make decisions on their own, without considering your Living Will. By creating one now, instead of when you might be "under pressure," you can specify in detail, if necessary, what should be done with respect to your medical condition.

The question that arises in considering agents is whether to appoint more than one agent. While this is a purely personal decision, you should remember the fundamental reason why you are creating a Living Will - to enable one person to stand in your place and do what you want done in the event that you cannot. Thus, to establish a potential conflict situation in making these decisions by appointing more than one agent, may actually defeat your purposes. Remember, you might end up hurting feelings of family members or friends, but if you have carefully considered this legal document, you will end up being sure that your decisions will be carried out the way you intend them.

This does not mean that you should ignore alternate agents. Alternate agents are one or more persons who will serve, not with, but in place of your agent, if he/she cannot or will not.

In expressing your desires to your agent, you should specify certain situations by using examples of how you want medical treatment. Telling your agent that you do not want to "live like a vegetable" might be very helpful for the agent to decide what you wish them to do. You should consider and discuss what your views are on when a person ceases to live. Should every conceivable measure under the sun be tried to assist you, or should all treatment stop at the first sign of mental impairment? This discussion should be held, and if possible even tape recorded and kept by your agent, in the event of any questions.

Also, remember that medical knowledge might change your views or opinions on some treatment, so that your Living Will should be updated, and your discussion with your agent should be periodic.

Finally, there is a question of what happens if you have no one to appoint as your agent. Unlike appointing a bank to be a trustee for your trust in the event you have no trustee, the problem is not so easy here. It is unlikely you will find any institution or person to serve as an agent for you and make medical treatment questions about your health. Instead, you should prepare a Living Will that clearly designates all of the considerations which you wish and specifies the treatments or conditions of concern to you. You can take this document with you to the hospital or have someone hold it for you, in the event you are ever diagnosed with a terminal illness.

Healthcare Directives: Preventing Serious Legal Proceedings
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