Advance Directives: Giving You A Voice When You Can No Longer Speak

It is scary to go from thinking “I will die someday” to “This virus might kill me,” but this is exactly the sort of shift in thinking that many of us are undergoing. Facing your own mortality is never easy, but preparing for the end may help put your mind at ease during this stressful time. 

The Palmer & Slay team has been helping many people here in Rankin County update or create an end-of-life advance directive. This document can be used by your family members and healthcare providers to make decisions on your behalf should you get too sick to do so for yourself. It gives you a voice when you can no longer speak for yourself. 

In Mississippi, the typical advanced directive has two main parts — a power of attorney for healthcare and a living will. 

Power of Attorney

The power of attorney portion of your advanced directive empowers a specific person to make healthcare decisions on your behalf. You can set up the form so it is active at all times, or you can draft it so the person you choose only has power when you are incapacitated. 

Most people give their spouse power of attorney, but there is no law saying you must do that. You may pick any person you trust to be your agent.

In case the person you pick is unable or unwilling to serve, you should also pick a back-up. You should discuss your decision with both of these people and make sure they know you have filled out an official advanced directive document that will give them some guidance about your specific wishes. 

Living Will

The second part of the advanced directive, the living will, is the document that will give the person serving as your agent some guidance about your healthcare preferences. It can be as general or specific as you would like. 

If you want to, you can give your agent full authority to do what they think is best for you. If this is what you would prefer to do, that is fine, however, many agents are relieved when a living will provides more specific guidance. 

In your living will, you can:

  • Consent or refusal consent to any care, treatment, service, or procedure to maintain, diagnose, or otherwise affect a physical or mental condition.
  • Select or discharge health-care providers and institutions.
  • Approve or disapprove specific diagnostic tests, surgical procedures, programs of medication, and give orders not to resuscitate.
  • Direct the provision, withholding, or withdrawal of artificial nutrition and hydration and all other forms of health care.
  • State your organ donation preferences.

During this pandemic, specific wishes regarding the use of a ventilator have been highlighted. Only a small percentage of patients who are forced to go on a ventilator are surviving, however, the artificial breathing machine is prolonging the life of many seriously ill patients. There is a choice to be made. Do you want the option of being one of the small number of people who are saved by going on a ventilator? Or would you rather skip the prolonged suffering and focus on being made comfortable at the end? There is no one right answer to these deeply personal questions, so putting your wishes in writing can make it easier on your agent when they are tasked with making tough choices on your behalf. 

Compassionate Advice 

If COVID-19 has inspired you to begin the estate planning process, or update the plan you currently have in place, the Palmer & Slay team is here to help. We are meeting with clients over the phone and via secure video conference to provide compassionate advice during this difficult time. Please contact us today if you would like to schedule an appointment.