Take control of health care decisions in 2019 | Coming of Age…Again

Do you have a living will or health care directive?

  • Wednesday, February 20, 2019 8:30am
  • Opinion

A few months ago, I was planning knee replacement surgery. While providing the required pre-surgical information, including current medications, health history and more, the medical staff asked a question I was unable to answer.

“Do you have a living will or health care directive?”

“Why?” I thought, “Do they think I am going to die?”

No, it turns out, they don’t — but medical professionals and their patients must plan for any eventuality.

Someone must be able to make important health care decisions for you in case you cannot.

In Washington state, there are two primary ways to ensure that someone, other than you, can make these health care decisions if necessary. According to attorney Walter Kruger, who volunteers for Eastside Legal Assistance Program, you can create a health care directive or a durable power of attorney for health care, or both, or combine both in one document. The official term in Washington is health care directive, not living will.

A health care directive is used to inform doctors and caregivers of your preferences regarding medical interventions that you would — or would not — want used to keep you alive in the event that you are seriously or critically injured, terminally ill or unable to communicate due to a coma or late stage dementia. Without this document, these decisions will be made by your family in consultation with health care professionals, potentially in ignorance of your preferences.

A power of attorney and health care directive are frequently created when working with your attorney as part of your estate planning, along with a will and/or trust. However, forms are also available online.

If the health care directive is updated or changed, you should ensure your primary physician and your executor has the updated copy.

Even though you may have communicated your medical wishes in a health care directive, this document can never cover every circumstance. That is why attorneys and health care professionals recommend also having a durable power of attorney for health care. This document designates a trusted friend or family member to act as your health care agent if a physician determines that you cannot make such decisions on your own.

The person you designate as your health care agent has the authority to stop or refuse medical treatment on your behalf; hire or fire medical personnel and make decisions about the best medical facility for you. This designee can also visit you, even if visitation is restricted, and gain access to your medical records. Your durable power of attorney for health care gives your designee the right to make decisions not covered in your health care directive. You can revoke your power of attorney document at any time with a written notice to your agent.

Unlike me, plan ahead. It is important!

For more information and forms visit www.atg.wa.gov/living-wills or tinyurl.com/ycysf8vs.

Coming of Age…Again is edited by the Kirkland Senior Council, a group the city of Kirkland created in 2001 to advocate for older adults in our community. The council is made up of people living or working in Kirkland who want to improve and maintain the quality of life for people in Kirkland as they grow older. Membership is open throughout the year.

More in Opinion

In the hands of voters | Letter

Every voter in the state of Washington should be furious with the… Continue reading

The sustainable summer picnic

Three easy steps for an eco-conscious outing.

Summertime opportunities to read, learn and grow

A monthly column about King County libraries.

Legislature: History, investigations and new laws

The 2019 session of the Legislature included controversy, compromise, surprise, new law and more.

Critical time for the planet | Letter

This is in response to Mr. Eirich’s letter on May 17 regarding… Continue reading

A step backward | Letter

Rep. Suzan DelBene announced in her email newsletter that she “proudly voted”… Continue reading

A tone deaf Legislature | Letter

The headline should have been “Legislators stole $900 M for the affluent… Continue reading

With Palumbo out, capital gains tax gets real for Democrats

His successor could be the vote leaders need. But with elections in 2020, tax may be off the table.

Art shows that ‘creativity is ageless’

The upcoming art show at Merrill Gardens will run from June 6-28

‘If I can do it, they can do it’ | Windows and Mirrors

Lori Matsukawa’s lasting legacy on Asian American journalists.

Thank you Hiruko | Letter

Ashley Hiruko’s detailed story (“Susan’s quest for justice and the civil legal… Continue reading

An eye opener | Letter

I was quite taken by the article “Susan’s quest for justice, the… Continue reading