Do You Need an Elder Care Lawyer to Help With an Advanced Health Care Directive or Living Will in New Jersey?
Written by Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq. of Hanlon Niemann & Wright, a New Jersey Elder Care Attorney
At Hanlon Niemann & Wright, Our Elder Care Lawyers Will Guide You Through the Entire Process of Creating an Advanced Health Care Directive or Living Will. Please Contact Us Today.
Questions surrounding your health care and end of life are extremely important. When life sustaining decisions are involved, you obviously want to be in control of how your condition will be handled. But sometimes that may not be possible.
New Jersey law affirms the right of each individual to give instructions about his or her health care under the New Jersey Health Care Decisions Act. In fact, New Jersey has adopted a new law on physician orders for sustaining treatment (POLST). It is intended to help create a standardized form for persons of all ages who have a life expectancy of one year or less, have a diagnosed progressively degenerative condition or wish to plan in advance of a medical emergency. The following documents are used to disclose an individual’s desires with regard to health care:
• “Living Will and Health Care Directive.” Many people are familiar with the term “living will”. It is used to address health care preferences, typically the wish to avoid being medically kept alive with “extraordinary” or “heroic” measures if death or a terminal condition is diagnosed.
• “Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care.” A highly versatile and essential document, the durable power of attorney for health care is the predecessor to the Health Care Directive.
New Jersey law approves of and promotes the use of a comprehensive Advance Health Care Directive. In your Health Care Directive you can:
Appoint a Health Care Agent: You may appoint someone you trust including your spouse or child for example, to make your health care decisions for you in the event you cannot do so yourself. This allows the person (called your “Agent”) to dictate medical decisions as you would most likely want them to be made. It allows medical decisions to be made based on your then real-life condition, not on a purely pre-determined result. The agent you appoint should be familiar with your feelings on certain treatments and whether you would consent or refuse permission for elective and/or life sustaining procedures. Once you appoint an agent, a physician cannot be held liable for listening to their decisions related to you.
Health Care Instructions: In addition to the appointment of an agent, you may also give health care instructions. You may explain how you want to be treated, for example, if you are permanently incapacitated and/or imminently facing death and unable to make your own decisions about suggested life-sustaining treatment.
Relationship with your Physician and Healthcare Representatives: It is important that you have a physician who understands and appreciates your wishes related to your health care decisions. You should discuss your feelings related to the use of life-sustaining procedures in the event you are terminally ill or irrevocably unconscious with your physician and healthcare representative. You should feel confident that your doctor and healthcare agent will respect your decisions in such an event. If you do not feel this way, you should consider a change to another physician or representative who you feel comfortable with.
“Form” Documents: There are many statutory forms out there that call themself an Advance Health Care Directive. Most are very general and highly vague and ambiguous. Family members could easily disagree about the documents’ meaning. For crucial decisions likely to be needed when one is permanently incapacitated, you may find that many forms fail to provide the specificity that could be necessary. The power to make life or death decisions is an important one and should be given only after obtaining sound advice, with full understanding and with explicit instructions that reflect the signer’s wishes and accommodate any special needs. In most cases, it is recommended that you work with an Elder Law attorney who is knowledgeable about the important medical legal issues involved in preparing your Advance Health Care Directive.
Every Person Should Have an Advanced Healthcare
Directive and Living Will in New Jersey
Final Thoughts: A properly drafted Advance Health Care Directive and Living Will satisfies the need for “surrogate” decision-making should incapacity strike. It can avoid a possible court-ordered guardianship. Guardianship can cost up to $6,000 when all is said and done. Instead, each of us is able to choose the person who will act on our behalf if a medical emergency or major health care decision needs to be made. An Advance Health Care Directive, if properly drafted, can be one of the least expensive forms of insurance one can buy. Even more important than documents that specify how we want our property disposed of upon death, the Advance Health Care Directive can ensure for each of us personal dignity and bodily integrity by detailing how decisions are to be made about our health care while we are still alive. Anyone who is age eighteen or over should consider signing such a document. You can get additional information about Living Wills and Health Care Directives at our New Jersey Living Will law website.
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If you have questions about a NJ Living Will and Advanced Health Care Directive, then call Fredrick P. Niemann
toll-free at (855) 376-5291 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
He’s experienced and trusted by NJ families for over 30 years.