The Edmond Sun

November 8, 2013

ASK A LAWYER: Health care directives put you in control

By Matt Hopkins
Special to The Sun

EDMOND — EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a weekly series of columns written by attorneys at Lester, Loving & Davies law firm in Edmond.

Q: What is an advanced health care directive?

We have discussed basic estate planning documents during the past few weeks. So far, we have determined that everyone needs a will and a power of attorney. Wills provide for distribution of your assets upon your death. Powers of attorney authorize another person to take care of your business during your life and, thus, protect your interests in the event of your disability.

So, we can see that some estate planning documents protect you and your family in the event of your death, while others do the same in the event of your disability. What both have in common is that they require human beings to consider things we don’t usually like to think about. Bad stuff happens — sometimes even to us. By executing these documents, we at least plan for calamity to happen before we go on about assuming it will not.

A significant part of this planning is often forgotten. What do you want to happen to you if you are terminally ill with no hope of recovery? Do you want to be placed on life support indefinitely? Do you want to receive artificial food and water if you can’t otherwise eat or drink? Would you prefer to unplug the machines and follow the natural consequences?

These are important questions. If you want to control the answers, you need to prepare an advanced health care directive. In a directive, you make elections regarding your health care in certain events. The document seems a little complicated and somewhat repetitive. But the bottom line is that in it you state your intentions regarding the use of life support and artificial food and water in a number of different circumstances. If you subsequently fall into one of those circumstances and your physicians determine there is no real chance of recovery, the doctors will follow the directions you have provided in your health care directive.

You also can take other action in a health care directive. You can appoint a health care proxy to make medical treatment decisions for you if you are unable, and make elections regarding organ donation.

Perhaps the biggest value in preparing a directive is that it lets family members off the hook on questions of life support. Because you have stated your desire, your loved ones may be more comfortable knowing that you — not they — made the tough calls.

MATT HOPKINS is an attorney for Lester, Loving & Davies P.C. More information is available at Send questions to