Advance Directives and your right to choose your medical treatment

Posted on February 5, 2014

by Margie Connolly

Margaret McCullough Connolly, Sugar Land Attorney and Counselor at Law

Advance Directives are a way to protect your rights as a patient.  In the event you lose your ability to understand the nature and consequences of health care decisions, or the ability to make informed decisions, an advance directive assures that your wishes concerning treatment will be communicated to your physician, medical staff and/ or hospital.

I’d like to discuss two important advance directives recognized in Texas.  First, the Medical Power of Attorney.  This document allows you to name or appoint an agent to make health care decisions for you in the event you become unable to make those decisions for yourself.  This “agent” can be a family member or trusted friend, to whom you give authority to consent or refuse, on your behalf, medical treatment.  This person may also make decisions regarding starting or stopping life-sustaining treatment.  Note that this document applies only to medical decisions, not to financial decisions.  You can change or cancel the document at any time so long as you are capable of making that decision..  You should always give a copy of this document to your appointed “agent.”  You can, and should, make a medical power of attorney while you are healthy.  You never know when an accident, illness, or injury could cause a need for important medical treatment decisions.

The second document is called “Directive to Physicians and Family.”.  This document sets forth your instructions to physicians to administer, withdraw, or withhold life-sustaining treatment when you have been determined to have an irreversible or terminal condition and are unable to communicate your wishes.  It is a document that supplements, but does not take the place of the Medical Power of Attorney.  And, it relieves your “agent” from having to make decisions regarding life-sustaining treatments by himself.  These are your instructions in such a situation.

I recommend every adult have these documents in order to protect their legal rights to choose medical treatment, and to make decisions easier for the family in the event of disability, injury or illness.  I recommend consulting with your physician, family, and attorney in making the decisions involved in drafting these documents.  Templates may be obtained online, or your attorney can prepare them for you following your instructions.  For more information, visit my website: