Patient health care directive

If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that life is uncertain. It has always been possible for people to go suddenly from perfectly healthy to very ill, but COVID-19 made that possibility frighteningly real for many of us. Fortunately, as of this writing, the pandemic seems to be abating somewhat. But the need to be prepared for sudden health emergencies remains.

Fortunately, Minnesota provides options for adults to make their health care wishes clear in a document called a health care directive, which is an important component of your estate plan. It allows you to express your wishes for medical care and end-of-life care in writing, in the event that you become physically or mentally incapacitated.

Your health care directive also allows you to appoint an agent (also known as a health care proxy or health care power of attorney) to make medical decisions for you if you are unable to. Here is some essential information about Minnesota health care directives.

Who Needs a Health Care Directive?

Any Minnesota adult over the age of 18 who wants control over their medical treatment, including what care they will receive if they become gravely ill. Your health care directive helps to ensure your wishes are honored, and it spares your loved ones the need to try to figure out those wishes and make difficult decisions during a crisis. It also prevents conflict between your loved ones in the event they disagree about what care you should receive.

What Must I Put in my Health Care Directive?

In order to meet legal requirements, your directive must:

  • Be a written document;
  • Be dated;
  • Contain your name;
  • Appoint an agent to make healthcare decisions on your behalf, and/or instructions about your wishes for health care;
  • Be signed by you or by someone else on your behalf while you have the legal capacity to sign documents;
  • Contain verification of your signature by a notary public or by two witnesses.

Your directive is effective as soon as the above requirements are met.

What Can I Put in my Health Care Directive?

Your health care directive can include your personal thoughts and instructions for a variety of situations such as:

  • Your general thoughts, values, and goals regarding health care;
  • What specific powers you want your health care agents to have;
  • The types of medical treatment you would want and the circumstances under which you would want it (For instance, some people would generally want CPR if their heart stopped, but not if it were only going to prolong suffering.);
  • Where you prefer to receive medical treatment;
  • Instructions about any health conditions you currently have
  • Instructions about certain intrusive mental health treatments, such as electroshock therapy;
  • Instructions about what you want your health care team to do if you cannot make your own health decisions and your health care team and agent believe you will not recover the ability to know who you are;
  • Instructions about artificial nutrition and hydration;
  • What you would find comforting (such as certain music or religious rituals) as you near the end of life;
  • Whether you want to be an organ donor;
  • What funeral arrangements you would like.

You can be as specific or as general as you wish with many instructions. If you are not sure what you want, you can leave many decisions up to your health care agent.

What Cannot Go in my Health Care Directive?

There are certain things you cannot legally do in a Minnesota health care directive, such as:

  • Request assisted suicide;
  • Name a health care agent who is not at least 18 years of age;
  • Name your doctor or health care provider as your health care agent, unless they are also a family member or you state in writing the specific reason you chose them.

Whom Should I Choose for my Health Care Agent?

This is an important decision because you need to be able to count on this person to make the medical decisions for you that you would make for yourself. It is a good idea to choose someone close to you, such as a family member or friend who will respect your wishes.

How Do I Make a Health Care Directive?

You can use a health care directive form, or your attorney can prepare a customized directive for you. Working with an attorney can be helpful because your attorney can help make sure that you understand your options and what you are requesting. If you do not use an attorney to help prepare your health care directive, make sure you understand what you are signing and that you have the proper witnesses or notary public to verify your signature.

I Have a Directive From Another State. Is it Valid in Minnesota?

Probably. If it meets Minnesota’s legal requirements or the requirements of the state in which it was made, your existing health care directive should still be valid. Just be aware that any requests for assisted suicide will not be honored in Minnesota, and it is important to ensure that all information is up to date; for example, information about where you want to receive health care treatments.

What if I Want to Change or Cancel My Directive?

It’s simple to do. A new health care directive will cancel and supersede an old one, which is part of the reason the document must be dated. Other ways to cancel a health care directive include destroying it, telling at least two people that you want to cancel it, or writing and dating a statement that you want to cancel it. If you change or cancel your directive, make sure that your agent is aware of it.

If you have questions about Minnesota health care directives that were not answered in this blog post, or would like to prepare or update a directive, we invite you to contact Mundahl Law to schedule a consultation.

Categories: Estate Planning