Tennessee Health Care Documents – A Living Will is Not Really a Will

Tennessee has several types of health care documentation that address different situations. People refer to them as Advanced Directives, Living Will, Medical Directives, Health Care Power of Attorney, Advanced Care Plans, Appointment of Health Care Agent, and so on. Regardless of what they are called, they can be divided into three main areas.

1. Health Care Power of Attorney 

This is where you appoint the person or people who will make your health care decisions if you are competent and unable to communicate. We prefer to have named both a primary decision-maker and an alternate decision-maker if the primary is unable to serve. For instance, it is very common for married couples to name each other as the primary health care decision-maker. But if the spouse has predeceased or is incapacitated, the alternate can act.

The health care power of attorney has essentially the authority over the person’s care decisions. Some examples include choosing a nursing home, choosing whether or not to have an operation, or “pulling the plug.”

Remember, the Health Care Power of Attorney only has authority when the person is unable to communicate decisions about his/her own care. The health care power of attorney cannot override a person’s health care decisions if the person is competent and can communicate the decisions. The health care power of attorney is there to help facilitate the person’s decisions, not substitute their own decisions based on what they think is better.  

There was a situation once where a father appointed his son as his health care power of attorney. The son had moved to a different community and was trying to force his Dad to transfer from his existing care facility to one near the son’s new residence. Dad, who was competent, wanted to stay and not move. Son, asserting his position as Dad’s health care power of attorney essentially said, as power of attorney, it was his decision to make, not Dad’s decision anymore. Son tried to physically remove Dad from the care facility. Lawyers, care facility management, and the police were called in. The care facility and Dad’s doctor both stated that Dad was competent to make his own health care decisions. Dad, as he desired, stayed in the facility, and Son was escorted off the premises by the police. 

2. Medical Directives

There are two interrelated sections to the Medical Directives. The first section is about identifying certain situations that the person would consider an “unacceptable quality of life”. The second section addresses different treatment options if the person is in one of those unacceptable quality of life situations. 

Some of the situations considered acceptable or unacceptable include a permanent coma, advanced dementia, unable to care for themselves, including bathing, eating, and walking. Some of the treatment options if a person is in an unacceptable quality of life include: whether or not to do CPR to restart the heart, keep organs functioning by machinery, treatment of new conditions, and food and water provided by tubes. It needs to be understood that these treatment options only apply if the person is in an unacceptable quality of life. They are not broad declarations of treatment.

3. Living Will

The Living Will may be one of the worst named documents ever. A living will is not a “will” but a health care document. One of the main parts of the Living Will is a Do Not Resuscitate statement. The Living Will essentially states – and I am paraphrasing – “If I have a terminal condition and, regardless of whether they do or do not provide me with treatment, with a medical probability that it will still result in my death, in that case, not do anything extraordinary to keep me alive, but keep me pain-free and comfortable.”

The Living Will also has sections about tube feeding during the end-of-life process and options for organ donation. With organ donation, there are three options: (1) Yes for transplantation, (2) Yes, but only some things, and there is a space to list the specific organs allowed for donation, and (3) No donation.

Get Assistance with Your Health Care Documents Today

When it comes to your future health care, you don’t want to take any risks. You deserve to have a say in the treatment and care you receive, even if you aren’t able to communicate it at that time. At MHPS, we can help ensure that you have reliable plans for the future so that your wishes are met.

Contact our estate planning lawyers today to learn more.

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