Elderly man signing an official document

What Clauses Should You Include in Your Health Care Directive?

By Chris Tymchuck
Founding Attorney

Are you concerned about ensuring your healthcare wishes are respected if you are ever in a situation where you cannot express them yourself? A Health Care Directive is a crucial tool in making this a reality. In this document, you express your healthcare preferences and appoint someone to speak for you when you cannot. This directive acts as your voice during critical medical situations, reflecting your values and choices for your well-being.

What is a Health Care Directive?

A Health Care Directive is a legal document that allows you to outline your medical treatment preferences and appoint a Health Care Agent to make decisions on your behalf if you’re unable to do so. In Minnesota, this directive serves a dual purpose: it communicates your healthcare wishes to your family and healthcare providers, and it legally empowers someone you trust to make decisions in line with those wishes. Having a directive in place is more than just a legal formality; it’s a thoughtful way to ensure your healthcare choices are known and respected, no matter the circumstances. It’s about taking control of your health decisions and providing clear guidance to those who may need to act on your behalf.

Choosing Your Health Care Agent 

Choosing your Health Care Agent is a decision of great trust and significance. This person will be responsible for making healthcare decisions for you if you cannot do so. Choosing someone who understands your values and wishes and who you believe will act in your best interest is vital. This could be a family member, a close friend, or someone else you trust implicitly. It’s important to have an open and honest conversation with them about your healthcare preferences and to ensure they are willing and able to take on this role. The right Health Care Agent is someone who respects your choices and can act on them.

Specifying Your Health Care Wishes

When specifying your health care wishes in a directive, clarity and detail are key. In this section, you articulate your preferences for treatments and interventions in various medical scenarios. Consider including your thoughts on life-sustaining measures such as resuscitation, mechanical ventilation, and artificial nutrition and hydration. Addressing your wishes regarding pain management and comfort care is also wise. Reflect on what matters most to you in terms of quality of life and medical intervention. These decisions should align with your personal values and beliefs. It’s helpful to discuss these matters with your healthcare provider to understand the implications of your choices. 

Including Instructions on End-of-Life Care

Including directions for end-of-life care in your Health Care Directive ensures your wishes are respected during the most critical times. This may involve decisions about receiving palliative care, choosing to decline resuscitation (DNR), or preferences about being at home or in a hospice. Be explicit about what you envision for your final days or moments; this might include the environment you want and what measures should be taken to ensure your comfort and dignity. 

Stating Preferences for Organ Donation

Stating your preferences for organ donation in your Health Care Directive is a powerful decision with far-reaching impacts. You have the opportunity to give the gift of life or improved health to others in the event of your passing. Indicating your choice for organ and tissue donation, or specifying particular organs you wish to donate, ensures your intentions are honored.

Granting Pregnancy Decision Authority

In Minnesota, if you are pregnant, your Health Care Directive does not automatically grant your agent the authority to make decisions on your behalf regarding your pregnancy. This critical authority requires explicit consent. Therefore, you must specifically indicate on the document that you intend to grant your agent the power to make healthcare decisions if you are pregnant. This step is crucial for ensuring that your healthcare preferences are honored in every situation, including those related to pregnancy. 

Addressing Mental Health Treatment

As awareness and understanding of mental health issues grow, it’s important to consider how you’d like mental health treatment handled. Whether specifying preferences for psychiatric care, counseling, or medication management, addressing mental health in your Health Care Directive ensures comprehensive care that respects your mental wellness, aligns with your overall healthcare philosophy, and ensures holistic attention to your well-being.

Review and Updates

Regularly reviewing and updating your Health Care Directive is crucial to ensure it continually reflects your current wishes and circumstances. Life events such as marriage, divorce, the birth of a child, or significant health changes can alter your perspectives and healthcare preferences. By periodically revisiting your directive, you can make necessary adjustments, ensuring that it accurately represents your choices and continues to provide clear guidance for your healthcare decisions.

Contact Unique Estate Law for Help with Your Health Care Directive

At Unique Estate Law, we understand the nuances and importance of a well-crafted Health Care Directive. We can provide personalized guidance, ensuring your document reflects your wishes accurately and comprehensively. Reach out to us, and let’s start the conversation about securing your healthcare future with confidence and clarity.

About the Author
As a Minneapolis Estate Planning and Probate attorney I help build and protect families through the adoption, estate planning, and probate processes. I also have experience working with families on issues related to their small businesses. I know how difficult it is to find time to plan for the future and I am here to help walk you through it.