What is a Personal Directive?
The Personal Directive is a written instruction to another person (your agent), usually a spouse or close family member, that tells them the extent of medical care you wish to receive if you become mentally incapable of making decisions for yourself. This document gives your agent power to make decisions regarding your care, and provides instructions about where you want to live and what activities you want be involved in if you lose mental capacity. Your Personal Directive can also state whether you want to be resuscitated if the chances of your full recovery are minimal. The clauses in a Personal Directive should be written clearly so that your wishes are carried out.
Why should you prepare a Personal Directive?
If you do not prepare a Personal Directive and you become hospitalized for a serious illness or condition which results in your loss of mental capacity, your family will have to obtain a Court Order that appoints a Guardian before they can make decisions for you. A Court Order will cost your family time and money and will have to be renewed every six years.
If you lost mental capacity, medical staff would need to receive instructions about your medical care from your close family members as soon as possible, but without a Personal Directive, health care professionals would not have the assurance that your loved ones have the legal authority to provide instructions. Your family and health care professionals could be in a difficult position if they do not know what your wishes would have been.
Who should I choose as my “agent”?
The agent is the person whom you choose to make decisions for you. This person is most often a spouse or close family member who knows your wishes and whom you trust to make decisions about your health care and living arrangements.
Who should prepare the Personal Directive?
Although standard forms are available from stationary stores and are legally binding if they are properly witnessed and signed when you have the mental capacity to do so, these clauses should be carefully drafted so that your wishes are carried out. A lawyer will guarantee that the document is drafted properly and clearly states your wishes.