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II. Documents protecting choices of medical care.

In the event you are seriously injured or incapacitated, you may be unable to make medical decisions about your care. In most states, in the absence of written directions, health care professionals will turn to your blood relatives to make these decisions in the event you are unable to make them for yourself. This is true no matter how long you may have been with your partner and regardless of whether you have a good relationship or even any relationship with your blood relatives.

A. Living Will/Medical Directive

In every state, you can execute a document describing your wishes concerning life-prolonging medical care. Depending upon the state, the document may be called by any one of several different names, including: living will, medical directive, health care directive, directive to physicians, or declaration regarding health care. This document is your directive to health care professionals about what measures you want them to take when you are no longer capable of communicating your choices regarding life-prolonging and other medical care.

B. Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care/Health Care Proxy

A durable power of attorney for health care (which is also sometimes called a "health care proxy") empowers another person to make medical decisions about your care in the event you become unable to make these decisions for yourself.

Even when you have specified your wishes in a living will/medical directive, there may be some decisions for which the health care providers need additional information to decide what action to take. In the absence of such a durable power of attorney for health care, the health care officials will turn to your blood relatives to make these decisions.

In most states you can use a durable power of attorney for health care/health care proxy to appoint someone you trust to make medical decisions for you. In some states, the living will, medical directive, and durable power of attorney for health care/health care proxy are included on the same form.

C. Where to Obtain Your State's Forms

States have different requirements for these documents. You must use a form that complies with the law in your state.

You can download state specific forms at You can also obtain health care directive forms at large hospitals or from your state medical association. In addition, Nolo Press' WillMaker computer program includes state-specific medical directive forms.

D. Once You Have Completed the Forms

Once you have completed the form as directed, you should make sure to keep a copy of your directive for yourself and give copies to:

* Your partner;

* Any physician with whom you now consult regularly;

* Any person named as a health care proxy;

* Officials at the hospital or other care facility in which you are likely to receive treatment; and

* Any other people or institutions who think it is wise to inform about your medical intentions.
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Publication:Life Lines: Documents to Protect You and Your Family in Times of Trouble
Date:Jan 1, 2003
Previous Article:I. Wills & trusts.
Next Article:III. Autopsy and disposition of remains.

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