Dear Attorney Tully: I communicated with my family about my wishes if I become terminally ill. They know exactly what my wishes are. I don’t think that I need a living will or a health care representative.
A: I disagree with you. Your family may have problems if you become ill. If you become incapacitated, who will make your medical decisions? A health care representative allows you to appoint someone else to act as your agent for medical decisions.
It will ensure that your medical treatment instructions are carried out, and it is especially important to have a health care representative if you and your family may disagree about treatment.
Without a health care representative, your doctor may be required to provide you with medical treatment that you would have refused if you were able to do so.
In general, a health care representative takes effect only when you require medical treatment and a physician determines that you are unable to communicate your wishes concerning treatment.
How this works exactly can depend on the laws of the particular state and the terms of the health care representative itself. If you later become able to express your own wishes, you will be listened to and the health care proxy will have no effect.
If you are interested in drawing up a health care representative, contact an attorney who is skilled and experienced in elder law matters.
Attorney Daniel O. Tully is a partner in the law firm of Kilbourne & Tully, P.C., members of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys Inc., with offices at 120 Laurel St., Bristol (860) 583-1341.