Your Wish is Their Command: Advanced Healthcare Directives

Sandy Balick of continues his discussion on post-divorce priorities, this time focusing on Advanced Healthcare Directives.I’m continuing my series on important things to look into after your personal D (as in Divorce) Day. Whether you are carried along by a sense of liberation or just a strong desire to finally get on with things, you should make the most of the opportunity to address personal finances (as in getting same in shape) and other important things. This entry falls in the “other important things” department.

The subject is Advanced Healthcare Directives. You may not regard this as a cheerful subject but it is important, to you and to your next of kin. There’s an inclination to think of this as something only older people need to be concerned with, but this is not the case.

First, what specifically are Advanced Care Directives? That depends on your responses to two questions:

  1. If you found yourself terminally ill and unable to make your own healthcare decisions, what actions would you like taken (or not taken) regarding your care?
  2. What would you like done in the case of a temporary disability in which you are unable to provide instructions concerning your medical treatment?

Living Will

The first question is answered by the document frequently referred to as a Living Will. It instructs those responsible for your care on such matters as:

  • Whether you would like nutrition and/or hydration withheld
  • When to resuscitate
  • When to provide mechanical ventilation
  • When to provide dialysis

The Living Will may also address your wishes in connection with organ donation.
The Living Will is designed to give you peace of mind that your wishes will be observed. Of no less importance, your next-of-kin may be appreciative as you will have relieved them of the responsibility for making difficult decisions regarding your health care at an already stressful time.

Your Living Will decisions are not irrevocable; you may make changes to them at any time or revoke them altogether.

Healthcare Proxy

The onset of a temporary condition may render you unable to take advice and give direction on your treatment. For this situation, a healthcare proxy, incorporating what is known as a Power of Attorney, has been devised and is recognized in most states.

The reference to the attorney does not mean you need to retain a lawyer for some lengthy drafting exercise. Rather, the Power of Attorney is a document under which you designate someone (and possibly a standby) to make temporary healthcare decisions on your behalf. This individual is frequently a close relative (though it needn’t be). Obviously, it’s not possible to detail care instructions for unforeseen events, but under a Power of Attorney, someone who cares about you and/or knows you well is able to interact with medical professionals on your behalf and make decisions regarding your care.

This is a big responsibility for your agent, which is why she/he must be carefully selected and why it is critical that:

  • They accept the designation
  • You convey, generally, the sort of treatment you would wish to receive

This is not unlike the manner in which parents are called upon to make healthcare decisions for minor children. They act based on all possible information to address a care situation in the best way possible.

In New York, where this blog originates, you can access Advanced Care (with Power of Attorney) and Living Will forms online by going to the New York State Bar Association’s website. Just reviewing the blank forms will be instructive as to the subjects covered and the manner in which the documents will have to be executed. You needn’t hire an attorney, but you might feel comfortable speaking with your doctor, especially in regard to end-of-life decisions such as whether nutrition and /or hydration are to be withheld.


Feel free to ask any questions, to comment, or to request more information in the Comments Box below. Also, please feel free to forward this blog to anyone you know who might be interested in its topic.

Sanford (Sandy) Balick, Attorney & Mediator in New York Sandy Balick signature
Sanford E. Balick, Esq.
Founder & Principal Mediator
Consensus Point Mediation, LLC.

Phone: (646) 340-3434
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