Even if you're young and healthy, an unforeseen accident or sudden illness can devastate your loved ones both emotionally and financially. Having the right legal documents in place to deal with a medical emergency is a must for everyone, particularly if you're married or in a committed relationship and/or have young children.
Advance Medical Directives and Living Wills
The most important document that will help you through a medical emergency is an Advance Medical Directive, also called an Advance Directive, Health Care Power of Attorney, or Medical Power of Attorney. This document allows you to name someone to make health care decisions for you if, for any reason, you can't make them for yourself.
The other important document to have in place is called a Living Will. This document allows you to state your wishes with regard to the type of medical treatment you want, or don't want, to receive if you're seriously injured in an accident and not expected to recover or if you become terminally ill.
Don't End Up Like Terri Schiavo
Probably the most famous case in recent years in support of making an Advance Medical Directive and a Living Will regardless of your age was that of Terri Schiavo, a 26-year old Florida woman who in 1990 fell into a coma after collapsing in her home. For 15 years Terri, who didn't have an Advance Medical Directive or a Living Will, was kept alive by artificial nutrition and hydration while her husband and parents fought over whether or not her feeding tube should be removed. In the end, a Florida court finally ordered the removal of Terri's feeding tube in early March 2005 and she died on March 31, 2005.
What You Should Do
In light of Terri Schiavo's case, an Advance Medical Directive and a Living Will will save your loved ones valuable time and money because your family will know your wishes and be able to carry them out if and when the time comes. So when putting together your estate plan don't forget to incorporate an Advance Medical Directive and a Living Will into your plan.