The following content is adapted from “Unthinkable” by attorney Kyle Bachus.
If a severely injured family member is in the Intensive Care Unit, intubated, unconscious, or in a medically-induced coma, they might not have the capacity to speak for themselves or make medical decisions. However, they may have an advanced directive that shares their wishes in the case of catastrophic injury. Here’s what you need to know about advanced directives.
What is the definition of an advanced directive?
An advanced directive, also called a “living will,” is a legally binding document that captures your loved one’s wishes for situations in which they are unable to make their own medical decisions. The purpose is to tell family members what they want if it comes down to a life-and-death decision and to spare others from having to deal with the pressure of that choice.
In short, an advanced directive will tell you and the doctors what your loved one wants if they are ever critically injured and unable to share their decision. Like a will, an advanced directive is a legal document that doctors are obligated to follow.
When is an advanced directive necessary?
When a loved one suffers a catastrophic injury, family members are left with several pressing questions:
- How severe are the injuries?
- What treatment is available?
- Will your loved one reach a full recovery?
- When can your loved one go home?
There is another crucial question you should ask during this difficult time: Is your loved one capable of making medical decisions? If the answer is no, it’s time to ask whether they have an advanced directive.
An advanced directive will explain your loved one’s preferred medical decisions. It is used as a guide for doctors and other healthcare professionals. While it is not necessary to have, it is beneficial in cases where a family member is too injured or ill to speak for themselves.
How do I locate my loved one’s advanced directive?
If your loved one never mentioned an advanced directive, it doesn’t mean they don’t have one. If a directive has been completed, it will most likely be with other important documents, such as their will or life insurance policy. You should look there first to see if you can locate the directive. You should also check:
- Filing cabinets
- Desk drawers
Additionally, they may have filed the advanced directive with an attorney or a primary care doctor after completing it. Patients who are conscious when they get to the hospital but were quickly rushed into surgery may have filled one out before being put under for the procedure.
What does an advanced directive cover?
An advanced directive can cover several issues related to medical care and how they should be handled, including:
- What medication is allowed or should be avoided
- Whether they want to be resuscitated
- Whether a breathing machine or dialysis is allowed
- If tube feeding is permitted
- When they want medical care to stop
- If the family can donate organs
- In many cases, a durable power of attorney for healthcare
Not all living wills are the same, so your loved one’s directive may include more or less than others. Whatever they choose to include in the advanced directive, it’s vital that you share it with the medical staff if they don’t already have it.
Does an advanced directive designate a decision-maker?
An advanced directive may include a “durable power of attorney for healthcare” document. The purpose of this document is to designate a specific person who can make medical decisions on behalf of another person who is unable to speak for themselves. The document may even name a backup person if the initial choice is unavailable.
It’s common for people to appoint close family members to take on this vital role, such as:
- Adult child
Who makes the financial decisions?
While a living will doesn’t explain financial decisions itself, it usually comes with another document called a “revocable living trust.” Just as a person can appoint someone to make medical decisions on their behalf, they can also designate somebody to make financial decisions. The document may authorize this individual to:
- Access bank accounts
- Pay bills
- Move funds
- Handle other financial matters
However, before the appointed person can make any financial decisions, a doctor will likely have to declare your loved one incapacitated. If your family member recovers and can once again make their own financial decisions, the authorization ends.
Legal Representation for Catastrophic Injury Victims
When a loved one becomes severely injured in an accident, your life changes in an instant. Whether there is an advanced directive or not, the stress, worry, and financial burden of the situation can become overwhelming for you and your family. But there is help and support to get you through this difficult time.
The catastrophic injury attorneys with the Elite Litigation Group specialize in representing victims who are severely injured in an accident involving commercial trucks. If your family member suffered catastrophic injuries due to a commercial truck driver’s negligence, the Elite Litigation Group can help you fight for justice and get the compensation you deserve. Contact their team to schedule a no-obligation consultation.