As the COVID-19 pandemic rips through the country, including in communities across the state of California, it’s important for you to be fully prepared. You need to comprehensively protect yourself against the different ways in which COVID-19 can upend your life. Of course, this includes making sure that you follow the different strategies recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to physically protect yourself from infection. It also means that you have other matters associated with your life generally in order. This includes making certain that you have an appropriately prepared Advanced Healthcare Directive. (This link leads to a standard advanced healthcare directive that meets the requirements of California law.)
Health Consequences of a COVID-19 Infection
Infectious disease specialists advise that COVID-19 is a highly contagious novel coronavirus. At the present time, there remains a good deal of uncertainty about this pathogen. What we do know is that a considerable number of people who end up infected with COVID-19 have minimal or even no symptoms. More severe cases can be problematic.
The reason focusing on an advanced healthcare directive in the midst of this is because of what will happen to you when if you are admitted to the hospital and are believed to have a COVID-19 infection. A person in this type of situation is isolated immediately and typically can have no further direct contact with loved ones.
If the disease progresses to the point that a patient must be placed on a ventilator, oftentimes a coma is induced. In other words, an individual suffering from severe complications associated with a COVID-19 infection will not be able to make decisions for his or her self.
What Is an Advanced Healthcare Directive?
A California advanced healthcare directive is a legal instrument designed to address issues relating to your medical care and treatment should a situation arise when you are unable to do so yourself. An advanced health care directive is an instrument that combines both a durable power of attorney and a living will into one document. These two components of an advanced directive are discussed in detail in a moment.
In the era of the COVID-19 pandemic, hospitals are going to be particularly intent on patients being admitted for what appears to be a coronavirus infection having an advanced healthcare directive. While certainly people are recovering even from more serious cases associated with a coronavirus infection, a small percentage of overall infected individuals end up having dire health issues with a yet to be specifically identified percentage of infected people dying.
The intent here is not to unduly sound alarm bells about the prospect of dying from a COVID-19 infection. Rather, as is universally the case when creating an advanced healthcare directive, you need to bear in mind the worst possible scenario.
Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare
A durable power of attorney for healthcare is one of two elements contained in a California Advance Healthcare Directive. A durable power of attorney for healthcare is an instrument that designates a specific person to make medical care decisions for you if you end up in a situation in which you are not able to do so for yourself.
You certainly want to select someone who you trust to serve as what legally is known as your attorney in fact or agent for medical decision making. You need to be certain that you select an individual who is willing to make tough decisions about your medical care when you are unable to do so. Some people willingly admit that they’re not the type of person capable of making what literally can be life and death decisions about someone they care about.
You also need to make certain that the person you designate to act on your behalf is fully aware of what you do and don’t want done as far as extraordinary measures are concerned. Indeed, the person designated to serve as your power of attorney agent needs to either have the original instrument in his or her possession or knows how to get access to it if you become ill.
In basic terms, a living will is a legal instrument (or part of a more comprehensive legal instrument like an advanced directive for healthcare) that sets forth limitations that you want on different types of medical care and treatment you do and don’t want to have undertaken. The provisions of a living will come into effect when you are in a condition to be unable to make decisions for yourself.
An example of a directive you might include in your living will is to say when you don’t want extraordinary medical procedures undertaken. You can enumerate what technologies you don’t want to use to sustain your life by these artificial means.