Having an advance directive is not a required action. Many people become incompetent to make their own health care decisions, and they have no plan in place for a doctor to follow. What happens then? The steps that are taken actually depend on the state, but most states have a similar response to this situation.
According to the American Bar Association, 44 states have something called default surrogate consent laws. These laws tell who is authorized to be a decision-maker in the event that a person cannot make medical decisions by himself, and the incompetent person does not have an advance directive. It is based on an hierarchy of family members and close friends, beginning with the spouse. If none of the family members listed are available, such as an adult child, a parent, or an adult sibling, then a close friend who knows the person’s values may become the decision-maker.
The default surrogate consent laws are useful, but they do lead to problems at times. Family members might not be in agreement about the wishes of the hospitalized person. This can create heated conflict at a time when it’s better to remain as calm and reasonable as possible. Even if you don’t wish to have an advance directive on file, at least have meaningful conversations with your closest relatives and friends, so they completely understand your wishes.
An advance directive helps avoid conflict because it clearly states in writing your own wishes concerning your end-of-life medical treatments. Legally, no one can argue with that. The pressure of making those decisions is lifted off the shoulders of your loved ones. At a time when an advance directive is necessary, any stress-relief is appreciated.
Let My Living Wishes help you prepare for the future. Creating an advance directive does not have to be difficult. We’ll help you get your personal wishes legally written down for your own benefit and your family’s benefit. Start planning now.