Q: Sue and Bob have been married for thirty years and raised three grown children. Now the children have moved out and Sue and Bob are moving on to the next stage of their lives. Sue always knew that she and Bob had different views about health care. She was more cautious and less likely to want medical intervention unless it was absolutely necessary. Bob saw several doctors regularly and followed their advice without question. Both Bob and Sue are concerned that the other spouse won’t follow their wishes when it comes to health care if they are unable to make decisions for themselves. What should they do?
A: The first thing Sue and Bob should do is to have an open, honest discussion about what their individual wishes are regarding health care.
If it turns out that Sue and Bob’s views are too divergent, and they don’t feel totally comfortable with the other spouse making health care decisions for them, they should each consider creating a health care proxy, naming a non-spouse agent to make health care decisions for them if they lack capacity. (A physician is the one who determines whether a person lacks capacity). The named agent will then be able to talk to the doctor, examine medical records, and make choices about treatments or end of life decisions.
It is important for the person and the agent to have a full discussion about the individual’s health care wishes (understanding that not every health care scenario can be discussed). The benefit of having a health care proxy in place is that the appointed agent can make decisions for you according to your wishes, if you are unable to make your own medical decisions. So, how best to make this important choice of an agent? Choose someone:
- who has the emotional strength to make a difficult decision;
- who will follow your instructions and wishes, and, if your specific instructions are unknown, will act in your best interest;
- whose religious or personal beliefs in regard to health care are not in conflict with your own; and,
- who will be readily available to consult with physicians or other health care personnel about your health care options.
As experienced New York Elder Law attorneys, we can help you with all your future planning directives, including health care proxies, powers of attorney, and living trusts. We are only a phone call or e-mail away, and are happy to assist you!
The information provided herein does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice; instead, all information, content, and materials available here are for general informational purposes only.