The Importance of Having an Advance Medical Directive

What Happens When You can't Communicate Your Medical Care Desires?

In addition to preparing a will, an estate plan, and other related documents, we often discuss with our clients the need for an Advance Medical Directive. If you are unable to communicate your desired medical care treatment or request that your life be terminated, then the Advance Medical Directive may be able to direct medical providers to fulfill your intent. Many authors say that the Advance Medical Directive is a legally binding document, but this author is of the belief that there are religious groups who will not permit termination of life because of religious beliefs. Make sure you discuss with hospitals that are likely to care for you what your desires and intentions are so that your intent will be followed.

There are a number of reasons why the Advance Medical Directive was developed. One reason is economic. If you are brain dead, in a vegetative state, in the end stage of a terminal illness, or in a coma for an extended period of time, you will be sustained on life support systems for as long as your body will endure. The cost to sustain you at a hospital can be financially enormous. Your health insurance benefits can become exhausted and thereafter the hospital can bring a legal action (law suit) against you for reimbursement of the cost of unlimited and indefinite medical care. Let's assume that you have dependents and that they rely on your assets in order to continue as they have been living or that upon your death your wealth is diminished, in whole or in part, by hospital and medical costs. Knowing of those possibilities, do you want them to occur? While you are healthy, you can establish a wide variety of methods by which to manage your medical treatment and care. Your loved ones will likely be able to deal with your medical care preferences or your demise in a much more responsive way if you have expressed your wishes and intent clearly before there is a need.

The recent advance medical directives were established by a group made up of physicians, hospital administrators, and lawyers. The purpose of the document is to express how and by what means your medical treatment should follow your express intentions. A lawyer is not necessary to assist you in completing the form. Many clients seek assistance and we respond to their needs. The elections are presented in multiple choice format where you either check off the elections you prefer or delete/strike through those that you do not wish to accept. The document needs to be witnessed and notarized.

The Maryland Advance Directive form is available you on our website and in many ways it is self-explanatory. When we prepare wills and/or estate plans for our clients, we recommend that they use the Advance Medical Directive form along with other documents such as powers of attorney. In 2010/2011, a major legislative change occurred to powers of attorney to make sure that there were sufficient and adequate expressions of intent that were included in what used to be called a durable power of attorney. If you have a power of attorney that was prepared before 2010/11, you should have the document updated to include expanded language. The risk of not updating may result in the document not achieving its purposes.

Fred Antenberg has over thirty years’ experience assisting clients in Howard County, Maryland, and surrounding counties in Central Maryland with wills, estate planning, and other testamentary documents. Call Fred today for a Free Initial Consultation at 410-730-4404.