“COVID-19 is quickly becoming the leading cause of death in the United States. As of today, Indiana has over 37,000 cases of COVID-19 and over 2,100 deaths. That is why articulating your wishes regarding end-of-life health care, is more important than ever.”
The number of Americans who have died in the last few months because of COVID-19 is staggering, reports Inside Indiana Business in an article that advises readers to “Get Your Advance Directives in Place Now.” Just talking with family members about your wishes is not enough. You need to put the proper legal documents in place. It is not that hard, and it is necessary.
Only one in three Americans has completed any kind of advance directive. Many younger adults do not feel the need to complete these documents, but there have been many examples that prove this is the wrong approach. Both Terri Schiavo and Karen Ann Quinlan were only in their twenties when they were not able to make their wishes known. Family members fought in and out of court for years.
The clinical realities of COVID-19 make it hard for healthcare workers to determine their patient’s wishes. Visitors are not permitted, and staff members are overwhelmed with patients. COVID-19 respiratory symptoms come on rapidly in many cases, making it impossible to convey end-of-life wishes.
Advance directives are the written instructions regarding health care decisions you wish to be followed if you are not able to communicate your wishes. They must comply with your state’s laws. The most common types of advance care directives are the health care proxy, in some states called a health care power of attorney, sometimes accompanied by a living will.
A health care proxy names a person, usually a spouse or family member, to be a health care agent. You may also name alternative agents. This person will be able to make decisions about your health care on your behalf, so be sure they know what your wishes are.
A living will is a document that can state your wishes about the type of care you do or don’t want to receive. Living wills typically concern treatments like CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation), breathing machines (ventilators), dialysis, feeding tubes and certain treatments, like the use of an IV (intravenous, meaning medicine delivered directly into the bloodstream). However, even with a living will in place, it is imperative that your health care agent(s) truly know your wishes regarding what you consider important factors for a good quality of life.
Studies show that people who have properly executed advance directives are more likely to get care that reflects their stated preferences.
Traditional documents will cover most health situations. However, the specific symptoms of COVID-19 may require you to reconsider opinions on certain treatments. Many COVID-19 patients need ventilators to breathe and do subsequently recover. If in the past you wanted to refuse being put on a ventilator, you may wish to reconsider in the current COVID-19 climate.
Almost all states require notarization and/or witnesses for advance directives and other estate planning documents to be valid. Many states, including Indiana and New York, now allow for remote notarization.
Talk with your estate planning attorney about putting your estate planning documents in order.
Reference: Inside Indiana Business (June 8, 2020) “Get Your Advance Directives in Place Now”