Health Care Directives

What is a health care directive?

A health care directive is a legal document which enables a person to communicate the person’s wishes about incapacity, illness, medications and end-of-life care.  A health care directive can do one or both of the following:

(1) Inform others (such as nurses, physicians, social workers and family members) about your wishes pertaining to your health care, care during illness, pregnancy and end-of-life care and/or

(2) allows you (the “principal”) the power to appoint an individual (known as the “health care agent”) to make health care decisions on your behalf should you lack decision making capacity.

What types of instructions and information can I include in my health care directive?

Examples of the types of information and instructions that may be included in your health care directive are as follows:

  • The person(s) you would like to list as your health care agent and alternate health care agent;
  • Instructions regarding whether or not you wish to receive artificial life sustaining measures;
  • Instructions regarding your pregnancy;
  • Instructions regarding care during an illness;
  • Instructions regarding artificial nutrition and hydration;
  • Instructions regarding pain medications;
  • Instructions regarding antibiotics;
  • Instructions regarding whether you wish to donate organs upon your death;
  • Instructions pertaining to your wishes about burial vs. cremation;
  • Your wishes regarding funeral arrangements, if applicable;
  • Information regarding care facilities (such as nursing homes and hospitals) where you would like to receive care;
  • Your wishes for care in accordance with your values, morals and religious beliefs.

What are the requirements for an individual to be a health care agent?

A health care agent must be an individual age eighteen (18) or older.

What is the difference between a health care directive and a living will?

In the past, Minnesota law provided for a variety of other different types of health related documents including durable health care powers of attorney and living wills.   In August of 1998, Minnesota law changed so that individuals can use one document to encompass all of an individual’s health care instructions and wishes, a health care directive.

What are the requirements for a valid health care directive in Minnesota?

Under Minnesota Law, a valid health care directive must be in writing, dated, and state the name of the principal creating the health care directive.  The health care directive must also be signed by the principal and it must contain verification of the principal’s signature by a notary public or by two witnesses.  Additionally, the health care directive must include health care instructions, appoint a health care power of attorney, or both.

What if I execute a health care directive and then I decide a few years later I change my wishes and I want to create a new health care directive?

Yes, during your lifetime, you can revoke your health care directive and create a new one.  A health care directive can be revoked pursuant to the terms set forth in the Minnesota Statutes.

If you are interested in creating a health care directive, please contact Swanson Law Office at (651) 295-8762 to schedule a consultation.

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