The Importance Of A Directive To Physicians

Formally documenting your healthcare decisions now protects you during situations where you are unable to make those decisions for yourself. The Directive to Physicians, often called a living will, is a desirable component of the medical side of estate planning. It enables you to communicate your preferences regarding end-of-life medical treatment in the event you’re faced with a terminal or irreversible condition. 

How a Directive to Physicians Works

A Directive to Physicians is a legal document communicating your wishes about end of life medical treatment in specific scenarios. This document is only effective if you’re diagnosed with a terminal or irreversible condition and are unable to communicate your wishes. Terminal conditions are those deemed incurable, with an expectation of death within six months, regardless of the treatment. An irreversible condition might be treatable but never cured. People in these situations can’t care for or make decisions for themselves. The conditions will be fatal without life-sustaining treatment.

This document is essential because it speaks for you when you cannot communicate your wishes due to your medical condition. Although it is a component of an estate plan, it is a document that doesn’t directly alter your will, estate, finances, health, or life insurance premiums. It only covers end-of-life treatment options. It takes effect only upon a doctor’s determination that your situation is terminal or irreversible.

Is This the Same As a Medical Power of Attorney?

There is a distinction between a Directive to Physicians and a Medical Power of Attorney (MPOA). While the directive will inform your healthcare providers and loved ones about your preferences for life-sustaining treatment if you’re terminally or irreversibly ill, the MPOA assigns someone the authority to make broader healthcare decisions on your behalf when you can’t, regardless of the nature of your condition.

Without a directive, Texas law outlines a hierarchy of individuals, starting with your legal guardian or the person appointed through your MPOA. This is followed by your spouse, adult children, parents, the nearest living relative, or another uninvolved doctor, who may be consulted to make medical decisions on your behalf. 

Ensuring You Have a Valid Document 

For your directive to be valid, it must be acknowledged by two witnesses or a notary public. There are specific restrictions on who the witnesses can be. Knowing that this document can be revoked at any time through various means is essential, ensuring that your current wishes are always documented.

If your doctor refuses to follow your directive, Texas law allows for a transfer to a different hospital or a medical committee review of the doctor’s decision. Keeping your directive accessible and informing your doctor of its existence is vital for ensuring it’s followed in critical situations.

Planning with ConfidencePreparing a Directive to Physicians is an important step in managing your healthcare preferences for the future. It’s about making your wishes known and ensuring they’re respected, providing peace of mind for you and your loved ones. If you’re considering creating a living will or have questions about the process, contact our office to set up a consultation. We can help guide you through these important decisions, ensuring your healthcare planning is comprehensive and reflects your wishes.

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Law Offices of Debbie J. Cunningham

Debbie Cunningham is an Irving attorney providing affordable estate planning to the Dallas/ Fort-Worth areas. She understands the steps you should take to protect yourself and your loved ones. Debbie is family-focused and wants to ensure her clients are fully informed on the options that are available for their families. Debbie’s own blended family has given her valuable insights into the complexities of family dynamics.

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