To make things easier for your family, make sure you have chosen and documented your choices for who you want to make healthcare decisions for you if you were unable to make them.

You need to have named someone to make decisions for you if you are unable to. This is called a Healthcare Proxy. Other names are Healthcare Power of Attorney, Agent for Healthcare Decisions, Power of Attorney for Medical Decision, etc.

You may want to provide further written guidance about what sort of healthcare you do and do not want. This will guide doctors and your proxy in making decisions, if you are unable to make decisions.

Having your Healthcare Documents in order helps to reduce personal and family worry. In addition, they help minimize potential arguments among family members because they family does not have to guess or debate what you would have wanted. (When Terri Schiavo’s wishes were not known the battle between her relatives went on for years and ended up in the Supreme Court).

Moreover, without knowing your wishes, doctors and medical professionals may use costly, specialized procedures that you would not want. Family members can ask “Isn’t there something you can do?” Doctors, in part afraid of the legal ramifications of being thought to have made the wrong choice, will do something that may be futile.

Aside from legal considerations, letting your family know your wishes lets them follow your wishes instead of feeling overwhelmed by the choices they are facing, as well as guilt over “giving up”.

For all of these reasons, help your family members by documenting your choices. For further guidance on making these decisions, go here.

Note: You will also need someone to act on your behalf, a Durable General Power of Attorney, with respect to your financial and personal decisions.