Minnesota law allows you to inform others of your health care wishes. You have the right to state your wishes or appoint an agent in writing so that others will know what you want if you can’t tell them because of illness or injury.
What is a Health Care Directive?
A health care directive is a written document that informs others of your wishes about your health care. It allows you to name a person ("agent") to decide for you if you are unable to decide. It also allows you to name an agent if you want someone else to decide for you. You must be at least 18 years old to make a health care directive.
Why Have a Health Care Directive?
A health care directive is important if your attending physician determines you cant communicate your health care choices (because of physical or mental incapacity). It is also important if you wish to have someone else make your health care decisions. In some circumstances, your directive may state that you want someone other than an attending physician to decide when you cannot make your own decisions.
Must I Have a Health Care Directive? What Happens if I Don’t Have One?
You don’t have to have a health care directive. But, writing one helps to make sure your wishes are followed.
You will still receive medical treatment if you don’t have a written directive. Health care providers will listen to what people close to you say about your treatment preferences, but the best way to be sure your wishes are followed is to have a health care directive.
What Can I Put in a Health Care Directive?
You have many choices of what to put in your health care directive. For example, you may include:
The person you trust as your agent to make health care decisions for you. You can name alternative agents in case the first agent is unavailable, or joint agents.
Your goals, values and preferences about health care.
The types of medical treatment you would want (or not want).
How you want your agent or agents to decide.
Where you want to receive care.
Instructions about artificial nutrition and hydration.
Mental health treatments that use electroshock therapy or neuroleptic medications.
Instructions if you are pregnant.
Donation of organs, tissues and eyes.
Who you would like as your guardian or conservator if there is a court action.
You may be as specific or as general as you wish. You can choose which issues or treatments to deal with in your health care directive.
Are there Limits to What I Can Put in My Health Care Directive?
Your agent must be at least 18 years of age.
Your agent cannot be your health care provider, unless the health care provider is a family member or you give reasons for the naming of the agent in your directive.
You cannot request health care treatment that is outside of reasonable medical practice.
You cannot request assited suicide.
How Long Does a Health Care Directive Last? Can I Change It?
Your health care directive lasts until you change or cancel it. As long as the changes meet the health care directive requirements listed above, you may cancel your directive by any of the following:
A written statement saying you want to cancel it.
Telling at least two people you want to destroy it.
Writing a new health care directive.
What Should I Do With My Health Care Directive After I Have Signed It?
You should inform others of your health care directive and give people copies of it. You may wish to inform family members, your health care agent or agents, and your health care providers that you have a health care directive. You should give them a copy. It's a good idea to review and update your directive as your needs change. Keep it in a safe place where it is easily found.
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