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Part III Who Needs an Advance Health Care Directive?

The short answer to this question is just about anyone unless they are a minor. Anyone over the age of 18 can execute a health care directive and they are simple to fill out. The reality of life is that it is often unpredictable. We never know when an unexpected medical crisis may occur.

Most of us remember the case of Terry Schiavo, the young mother who fell into a coma in Florida, resulting in a long struggle between her husband and her parents as to whether she should be taken off life support. Recently in San Diego, the news reported on divorced parents whose son is in a similar vegetative state and they disagree as to what should be done.

Anyone being admitted to a hospital should have a health care directive and in fact most hospitals will request that you provide them with a copy of yours or execute one if you don’t already have one. Certainly seniors and anyone facing serious health problems should have one so that an agent is designated to make health care decisions and there are instructions for health care that set forth your wishes.

Advance Health Care Directives are recognized in every state. They have no time limit; they remain in effect until revoked and they can be amended or revoked at any time.

What happens if you do not have an Advance Health Care Directive? Sometimes hospitals will have a policy setting forth who should make medical decisions especially if there are no family disagreements. The California Probate Code also has a procedure to petition the court to assist with medical decisions in the absence of a health care directive. A conservator could also be set up over the person of someone incapable of making health care decisions on their own. Having a health care directive however saves time and money and makes it easier on loved ones knowing that decisions that are made are what you would have wanted.

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