Although you may not give it much thought, over the course of a single day you make thousands of decisions. Most of those are small, inconsequential decisions, but some of them are much more important. Decisions regarding medical treatment, for example, may impact your health for the rest of your life. Regardless of the decision you make, you are the one making the decision. What happens though, if you are unable to make your own healthcare decisions? Most likely you would want the ability to decide who makes those decisions for you. To explain how you can do that, the Woburn estate planning lawyers at DeBruyckere Law Offices explain New Hampshire advance directives.
What Is an Advance Directive?
An advance directive is a written statement of a person’s wishes regarding medical treatment that is created and executed to ensure those wishes are carried out should the person be unable to communicate them to a doctor. Because advance directives are predominantly governed by state law, the type of advance directives that are recognized, the decisions that can be made, and the language necessary to create an advance directive can vary slightly from state to state.
How Does an Advance Directive Differ from a Power of Attorney?
Most states recognize a type of advance directive that is very similar to a power of attorney in that it gives someone the legal authority to make decisions for you. The primary difference is that even a general durable power of attorney has some limits in most states and the most common limitation is the right of the Agent to make healthcare decisions for the Principal. To grant someone that type of authority you usually need to execute an advance directive that is effectively a healthcare power of attorney. In fact, in New Hampshire the relevant advance directive is referred to as the New Hampshire Power of Attorney for Healthcare.
New Hampshire Advance Directives
Most states, including New Hampshire, recognize at least two types of advance directives. The first is the New Hampshire Power of Attorney for Healthcare. A Power of Attorney for Healthcare allows you to appoint someone as your Agent to make decisions for you in the event you are unable to make them yourself because of your incapacity at some point in the future. Your Agent will have the authority to consent, refuse to consent, or withdraw consent to medical treatment, and may make decisions about withdrawing or withholding life-sustaining treatment. Your Agent cannot consent to commitment to a state institution, sterilization, or termination of treatment if you are pregnant and if the withdrawal of that treatment is deemed likely to terminate the pregnancy, unless the treatment will be physically harmful to you or prolong severe pain which cannot be alleviated by medication.
The second type of advance directive recognized in New Hampshire is what most people refer to as a “living will.” In New Hampshire, this document is known as a “New Hampshire Declaration.” In New Hampshire, a living will is very limited in scope, only allowing you to make a statement that you want life-sustaining treatment withheld or withdrawn if you are near death or permanently unconscious. If you have strong feelings with regard to other types of end of life medical treatment, such as accepting or refusing artificial nutrition or hydration, or the administration of pain medication, you can express those wishes in your Power of Attorney for Healthcare; however, it will be up to your Agent to act on those wishes when making treatment decisions for you.
Once you properly execute an advanced directive it becomes legally binding. If the conditions are met for the advance directive to become active, physicians and other healthcare providers are legally obligated to abide by the terms of the advance directive. Having one in place ensures that your wishes are honored and often prevents costly litigation.
Contact Woburn Estate Planning Lawyers
For more information, please sign up for one of our upcoming FREE seminars. If you have additional questions or concerns about New Hampshire Advance Directives, contact the experienced Woburn estate planning lawyers at DeBruyckere Law Offices by calling (603) 894-4141 or (978) 969-0331 to schedule an appointment.