This is of course a loaded question, since it assumes that you in fact DO have a health care directive. A recent Wall Street Journal online Health Blog post on March 15th titled “A Push for Better End-of-Life Planning” which reported that only about a third of Americans have some form of advance directive such as a living will or a medical power of attorney. This is due to many reasons: lack of understanding of the legal or medical terms (the average American reads at only an 8th grade level), poor access to legal advice, and procrastination, among others that we in the estate planning field see all too often.
If you have prepared a medical directive, does your agent (the person who speaks for you when you can’t) have a copy? Does your physician? If it’s sitting in a bureau drawer or locked in a safety deposit box, it’s not going to do much good when the time comes. Have you restated it within the last four years? Do you still agree with your decisions? Have you discussed your decisions with your agent?
If you have not prepared one, why not? Put yourself in your loved one’s shoes. In the absence of a medical directive, a hospital or physician may be forced to perform whatever procedures are necessary to keep you alive. 12% of all Medicare spending is spent within the last two months of life*, largely due to expensive life sustaining procedures that many people might not want.
The State of Mississippi has a website, where you can complete and print your healthcare directive for free. For more information on Advanced Healthcare Directives, click the link below or talk with your attorney. Preparing one, and letting your agent know where it is and what it says is one of the most unselfish things you can do.
*Sources: CMS, Medpac, Report to the Congress: Medicare Payment Policy, 3/10