National Health Care Decisions Day, Estate Planning

National Healthcare Decisions Day (NHDD) is celebrated each year on April 16th. Founded in 2008, the mission of NHDD is to encourage and empower people to begin or continue conversations about their wishes for care through the end of life.

Wisconsin is one of a minority of states that does not have a “family consent” law. This means that unlike other states, if you become incapacitated as an adult, no one in your family (including your spouse, parents, adult children or anyone else) has the legal right to make healthcare decisions for you. In this scenario, a legal guardianship typically must be established through the court.  

However, by signing a Healthcare Power of Attorney, you can name someone to handle your healthcare decisions in the event that you become unable to make these decisions. Everyone over the age of 18, who is competent to make one, should sign a Healthcare Power of Attorney and name both a primary and alternate agent to handle their healthcare decisions. You should make sure your primary and alternate agents are people you feel confident will follow through with your directives and be sure to communicate to them your values and desires for your healthcare.

In addition to a Healthcare Power of Attorney, you may also sign a Declaration to Physicians or a “living will.”  This document sets forth guidelines for withholding or withdrawing medical treatment from you in certain end-of-life scenarios. A living will is a declaration directly to your physician, while a healthcare power of attorney authorizes your agent to make healthcare decisions on your behalf.

Finally, it is important to be aware of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and its impact on accessing your protected health information. The major focus of this law is to provide patients more control over their protected health information. The law prohibits disclosure of protected health information without your consent or authorization. You should consider signing a HIPAA authorization form allowing the release of your protected health information to the individuals you have named as agents in your Healthcare Power of Attorney. This will ensure they can access the necessary information to make informed healthcare decisions on your behalf.

Please feel welcome to contact our experienced attorneys at Anderson O’Brien, LLP to learn more about advanced planning for your healthcare decision-making. Let’s make everyday a Health Care Decisions Day!