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Life Care Planning and Advance Directives: An Important Task for All of Us by Ann F. Schrooten


ife care planning is an important task for all of us, whether young or old, healthy or facing challenges. People of all ages can make their wishes known about what kind of medical care they want (or don’t want) if they are unable to give instructions. Advance Directives allow others to follow your directions regarding your health care and include a Heath Care Power of Attorney and a Living Will. A Health Care Power of Attorney allows you to designate another person as your agent to make health care decisions for you if you are incapable of making your wishes known. The person you designate is empowered to sign consents, discuss health care issues with the care team, obtain second opinions, secure nursing home placement, and take similar actions. Your agent may be a family member or a close friend whom you trust to make serious decisions. The person you name should clearly understand your wishes and be willing to accept the responsibility of making medical decisions for you. A Living Will is used in conjunction with a health care power THE MEDICAL EDITION

of attorney and sets forth your wishes regarding the extent of life-sustaining treatment you desire at the end of your life. A Living Will provides guidance about your general philosophy, ranging from “I do not want any life-sustaining treatment beyond comfort care” to “I want my life to be prolonged as long as possible.” If you do not have advance directives in place, Arizona law gives decision-making power to “surrogates,” primarily in order of kinship. The order is your spouse (unless legally separated), your adult child (if more than one, the majority available for consultation), one of your parents, your domestic partner, a brother or sister, a close friend. Without a Living Will, your surrogate will not know your wishes. A surrogate cannot disconnect a feeding tube; only a Health Care Power of Attorney or a guardian appointed by a judge can make that decision. In a case that focused national attention on advance directives, Terri Schiavo was in her 20s when she had her catastrophic collapse. Unfortunately, she did not leave written instructions expressing how she would like to be cared for if something happened to her. Because she did not leave instructions, the courts had to intervene. Further complicating matters, her family did not agree on what her wishes would be. By taking the proper steps now, you can ensure that your wishes are known. Life care planning is a gift you can give to yourself and your family. Don’t delay! Ann Schrooten is an estate planning and probate attorney at the Fitzgibbons Law Offices in Casa Grande, Arizona. SUMMER 20 15 GOLDEN CORRID OR OR LI V LI ING 19 SUMMER 2015 GOLDEN CORRID V ING


Golden Corridor Living Magazine  

May 2015