Health Care Directives

New Jersey Attorney Ready to Protect Your Wishes

Serious illnesses or disabilities can affect you unexpectedly. You may want to set out the arrangements that you would prefer for your medical and financial needs in case you become incapacitated by illness or advanced age. To this end, you can create an advance health care directive. If you want to create this instrument, you should talk to New Jersey health care directive lawyer Raymond A. Grimes at the Grimes Law Firm.

Health Care Directives

Health care directives are also known as living wills. While a last will and testament sets forth how property should be distributed upon death, a health care directive is used during your life. To be enforced, a health care directive must comply with the requirements of the New Jersey Advance Directives for Health Care Act. Under this law, you can execute the health care directive at any point in your life. However, you must execute it before you lose your competency. If you become incompetent, you can suspend or reinstate a health care directive if you executed it while you were competent.

To be valid, an advance health care directive needs to be either notarized or signed by two adult witnesses who are not health care representatives whom you have designated. The witnesses must attest that you were of sound mind at the time of making the advance directive and that you were not facing duress or undue influence. A health care directive attorney in New Jersey can help ensure that you meet these requirements.

Your health care directive becomes relevant only if you are incapacitated such that you cannot make a health care decision for yourself, and the directive was provided to the attending doctor or health care institution.

Types of Health Care Directives

Under New Jersey law, a health care directive can specify instructions for your health care, designate someone else to make health care decisions on your behalf, or both. An attending doctor needs to decide whether you are unable to make a specific health care decision, given the circumstances. This decision needs to be set forth in writing and confirmed by one or more doctors in writing. Your capacity as a patient to evaluate the nature and consequences of the specific health care decision should be assessed by the attending physician.

Once a physician decides that you are lacking in capacity, a proxy — the health care representative whom you designated — will exercise your rights. The proxy or health care representative will be entitled to stay informed about your medical state, as well as your treatment options and prognosis. Importantly, a proxy can give informed consent to health care or refuse it on your behalf. Also, the proxy is authorized to make health care decisions on your behalf if he or she is staying within the bounds of the authority provided in the advance directive and acting in good faith. He or she is supposed to make the decisions that you would have made if you had had decision-making capacity. It is wise to discuss what you would want to have happen in various situations with your proxy. If your wishes cannot be determined for a specific situation, a decision needs to be made in your best interests.

If someone other than your health care representative has been appointed as your legal guardian, the representative will keep the legal authority to make health care decisions, unless the terms of the legal guardian’s court appointments specify otherwise.

What Should a Health Care Directive Include?

The health care directive can address whether you would want medical care that prolongs your life. This could include mechanical ventilation, tube feeding, CPR, palliative care, organ donation, and do-not-resuscitate directives. For instance, if you are unable to breathe on your own after a serious car accident, and you have communicated that to your proxy, the proxy could refuse mechanical ventilation and resuscitation. It may also be appropriate to describe beliefs and more general treatment preferences so that situations not specifically addressed by the directive will still conform roughly to your wishes. A New Jersey health care directive attorney can discuss your possible options with you.

You should make a copy of your health care directive available to anybody who would ordinarily be notified of an accident or a health care emergency, such as a coma or stroke. You may wish to provide a copy to your spouse, your adult children, and close relatives or friends, in addition to providing it to your health care providers to make the document operative. If you live in a nursing home, you should provide your directive to the nursing home.

You can revoke an advance directive at any point by sending a letter or by verbally informing your doctor, family, health care representative, or nurse.

Explore Your Options With a Knowledgeable New Jersey Lawyer

Health care directives are important. You should create a directive that is enforceable and that clearly states your wishes. If you need to make a health care directive, you should contact a health care directive lawyer in New Jersey. Attorney Raymond A. Grimes represents clients in the Somerville area and throughout Somerset County, as well as elsewhere in New Jersey and the tri-state area. Call us at (908) 371-1066 or contact us via our online form.

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