Medical decision-making is a patient’s right. Adults have the right to control their medical care by consenting to or refusing medical treatment. Patients have the right to understand their health problems and their potential care options. They also are entitled to be informed and allowed to accept or reject various treatments that might affect their quality of life.
Even if a person becomes incapable, this does not mean that his/her right to control one’s health care decisions ends. There are times when health care decisions may need to be made when an individual is no longer able to decide or communicate his/her preferences. This could happen to adults of all ages who are at risk as a result of an injury or illness.
Requirements for a Health Care Directive
Minnesota Statutes sections 145C.01 to 145C.16 outlines the requirements for health care directives. Some of the requirements and considerations for a valid healthcare directive are as follows:
Execution Requirements: For a health care directive to be legally valid in Minnesota, it must:
- Be in writing and dated.
- State the name of the person creating the directive (called the “principal”).
- Be either signed in front of a Notary Public OR witnessed by two (2) individuals. Witnesses must be at least 18 years old and cannot be a health care agent named in the directive or a health care provider giving direct care to the principal.
- Select A Health Care Agent: A person can designate a health care agent to make medical decisions on their behalf if they are unable to do so. It is important to discuss your wishes with them beforehand.
- Review the Agent’s Duties: When naming a health care agent, select someone who is at least 18 years of age and, when possible, someone who:
- You trust;
- Has similar beliefs and values about medical care and death or dying OR is willing to carry out your wishes even if they are different from his or her own;
- Is not easily intimidated by family members, friends, or healthcare providers;
- Will be an advocate for your interests;
- Can cope with making difficult life and death decisions, including making decisions that would allow you to die; and
- Can make decisions under stress.
- Content: While the directive can be customized, typical elements include:
- Medical treatments the principal would or would not like to receive.
- Instructions in case of terminal illness, persistent vegetative state, or other specific conditions.
- Organ and tissue donation preferences.
- Funeral or burial preferences.
- Revocation: A person can revoke (cancel) a health care directive at any time. This can be done by creating a new directive, orally expressing the wish to revoke a health care provider, or by physically destroying the directive.
- Duration: Unless otherwise specified, a health care directive remains valid indefinitely or until it is revoked.
- Recognition of Out-of-State Directives: Minnesota law generally recognizes health care directives executed in other states as long as they were valid in the state where and when they were created.
- Storage: It is a good idea to keep the original directive in a safe but accessible place and to provide copies to your primary care physician, health care agent, and any close family members or friends. Some people also choose to keep a copy with their attorney or in a secure digital registry.
- Non-Emergency vs. Emergency Situations: Healthcare directives are crucial for non-emergency situations when there is time to consult the document and make decisions. In an emergency, medical professionals will typically act to save or stabilize a life, and then consult the directive when the immediate crisis is over.
If you are considering drafting a health care directive, it would be beneficial to consult with an attorney experienced in these forms of medical instructions. Mullen Law Firm can skillfully guide you through the process, ensure that your documents are correctly drafted, and provide advice tailored to your specific situation.
Mullen Law, P.A. offers health care directive services to clients in Edina, Bloomington, Eden Prairie, Minneapolis, Minnetonka, and the surrounding areas in Minnesota. We are dedicated to helping our clients navigate through their estate planning needs with a focus on personalized attention and care.