February 18, 2020
Until we reach an advanced age, many of us have a hard time imagining a catastrophic medical emergency befalling us. But tragedy can strike at any age. Remember, it was just a year ago, on Feb 27, 2019, that the well-known actor Luke Perry suffered a massive ischemic stroke. Doctors tried to save him, but the damage to his brain from interruption of its blood supply was too great. When he had a second stroke on March 4, the family agreed to doctors’ recommendations to remove him from life support. He was 52 years old.
Mr. Perry is remembered for starring in many successful TV shows and movies including Beverly Hills 90210 and Jeremiah. At the time of his death he had a starring role on the TV show Riverdale and had just completed a part in the movie Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. He was fit and in shape; his career demanded it. There was no accident, and there were no drugs involved in his death, though of course they also take many people sooner than they expected. Mr. Perry wasn’t exactly a teenager, but by all appearances, he seemed active and healthy up until the time of his stroke.
We all think we will pass away peacefully in our sleep at some point in our 90s perhaps, because to dwell constantly on sudden death would make life unbearable. But what would happen if you were suddenly incapacitated and could not make medical decisions for yourself? Have you documented the kind of care you want and do not want? Who would be making your medical decisions?
You do not need to dwell interminably on the specter of medical catastrophe, but it is only prudent to meet with your San Antonio estate planning attorney and put a plan into place. In Texas, you will want to discuss both a living will and medical power of attorney with your lawyer.
A Living Will in Texas
A living will contain formal instructions to your physician that directs them whether or not to put you on life support if you are struck with an irreversible or terminal condition and do not have the capacity to communicate with them. It is also known as a directive to physicians. You don’t simply choose “yes” or “no” in a living will. You outline what kinds of medical treatment you would or would not like to have administered under these conditions. In addition to assuring your wishes for yourself are carried out, executing a living will removes the agonizing burden on family members when they must determine whether to “pull the plug” on the recommendation of physicians when there is little or no hope left.
Should you decide to revoke your living will, you may do so at any time. Be sure to let your physician know though, so they can delete if from their records. Of course, you will also want to inform your family and attorney.
Though you may find a form for a Texas living will online, there are requirements for it to be legally valid in Texas, so it is best to consult with an attorney. For example, a living will in Texas must be notarized or signed by two witnesses, and there are extensive requirements for those witnesses.
Medical Power of Attorney in Texas
A living will should not be confused with a medical power of attorney. A living will is narrowly focused on your desire for a medical team to use or not use life-sustaining measures if you have a terminal or irreversible condition and are rendered unable to communicate. A medical power of attorney, on the other hand, includes all healthcare decisions. You do not have to have a terminal or irreversible condition for it to go into effect.
In a medical power of attorney, you appoint an agent you trust, usually a close family member, to make medical decisions for you should you be unable to do so. People often do not tend to think of creating a medical power of attorney until they are elderly. But, as we have seen, you do not know what the future will hold. We all hope we will not have a serious accident or suffer a sudden incapacitating illness, but it happens to people every day.
Like a living will, a medical power of attorney must be notarized or signed by two witnesses that meet specified requirements under Texas law.
Don’t Leave Your Life to Chance
Should you ignore the risks and refrain from creating a living will and medical power of attorney, decisions about your life and care could end up being made by family members you barely remember, your doctors or even a court. In other words, if you don’t want to put your life into the hands of people who do not know your desires and can’t be trusted to execute them if they do, you need to create a Texas living will and a Texas medial power of attorney.
You are not required to use a lawyer to create a living will or a medical power of attorney, but it would be wise if you at least consult with one. If you are considering executing a living will or medical power of attorney, call the San Antonio law offices of Shann M. Chaudhry Esq., attorney at law, for a free consultation. Contact us at (210) 646-9400 to schedule an appointment.
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