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Health Care Directives

Health Care Directives were authorized by Minnesota law in 1998, and combine the functions of other legal documents you may have heard of, such as Health Care Declarations or Living Wills, and Durable Power of Attorneys for Health Care, which are also refered to as Health Care Powers of Attorney.

A Health Care Directive is a document that person executes when they are planning ahead for the time when they might be incapacitated and unable to make decisions regarding their health care. So for instance, a person could decide that they would rather be allowed to die naturally rather than be kept alive by mechanical means. The Health Care Directive also nominates people that you trust to make decisions regarding your health care when you are incapacitated, and lays out what powers you want to legally give these decision makers.

Besides allowing you to have control over what happens to you when you are unable to physically decide later, Health Care Directives eliminate the need to make these difficult decisions for the ones you love, who will already be going through a very hard time to begin with. The Health Care Directive will spell out your wishes and save your family from having to deal with them.

The most famous case of a person who would have greatly benefited from having a Health Care Directive was the tragic case in Florida of . Had she executed this document, her parents and husband would have been spared from a heart-breaking fight that wound up going through the courts in a protracted legal battle, which is the last thing anyone would want to deal with in an already very difficult time.

Who should have a Health Care Directive?

It is a good idea for everyone to execute a Health Care Directive when they have time to reflect about some of the end of life decisions that will inevitably need to be made in almost every life. Most people would rather that they have control over what to do with their lives when they are incapacitated in a hospital, but of course it is impossible unless the person plans ahead for the future and executes a Health Care Directive.

What are the main functions of a Health Care Directive?

Generally, the main functions of a Health Care Directive are:

1) Appointing a Health Care Agent. This is the person that will have the power to make health care decisions for you when you lack the capacity to do so.

2) Designating a Personal Representative who can receive and authorize the use of protected health information (not to be confused with the more commonly known Personal Representative in the Probate process).

3) Nominate a Guardian should one be needed by a court.

4) Designate under what circumstances you either wish or do not wish to continue treatment in the case of a terminal condition.

5) Specify whether you wish to be an organ donor or not.

6) Specify whether you wish to be cremated or buried.