Designing an Advance Medical Directive During the Pandemic

Only about one-third of all Americans have advanced directives in place describing what care they want if they become seriously ill or injured. With millions of people infected with COVID-19, an advance medical directive is more important now than ever.

Important Details to Include in a COVID-19 Advance Medical Directive

Also called a medical power of attorney, an advance directive specifies how you want to be cared for if you are incapacitated because of health problems. Some basic things that people include are what types of medicines they want, where they choose to receive treatment, and whether or not they want to be resuscitated. You can designate a healthcare representative to make decisions for you, or you can detail all your decisions in advance. The coronavirus pandemic is bringing up some new questions that many people did not consider.

One of the most important things is whether or not you want a ventilator to be used during your care. You may also want to specify how long you would want to stay on a ventilator and whether you want to stay on it if your kidneys shut down. You should also be sure to write about whether you want to stay at home or go to the hospital during your illness. Talk about whether you want CPR or other treatments if your heart stops. Finally, it is a good idea to discuss whether or not you want experimental treatments in your COVID advance medical directive. Healthcare professionals are still working to find new options for treating this unusual respiratory illness. By the time you get ill, there may be treatments that are potentially useful but not proven effective.

How to Update a Pre-existing Advance Directive

Many people are realizing that their old advance medical directive did not address the COVID-19 crisis. If you are in this situation, you do not have to write an entirely new advance directive from scratch. Instead, you can add an addendum to your pre-existing directive. This allows you to just add some COVID-19-specific instructions while keeping the bulk of your original planning in place.

Addendums can be very detailed and specific, so they are an excellent tool for any estate planning lawyer. A COVID-19 advance directive addendum can specify that your instructions are only relevant if you have COVID-19. For example, you could state that you would like to be placed on a ventilator to treat COVID-19 while still keeping your original instructions declining ventilator usage in other situations.

How to Finalize Your Advance Medical Directive From Home

New Jersey’s requirements for making a legally binding medical directive are quite simple. All you need to do is write out your wishes and sign and date them in front of two witnesses who will also sign and date the directive. These witnesses cannot be the person appointed as your health care representative. If you do not have witnesses, you can just get the directive notarized instead. New Jersey has temporarily authorized remote notarization, which lets you work with a notary through a video call.

A lawyer is not legally required to create an advance medical directive. However, involving a New Jersey estate planning lawyer is still a good idea. They can help you with the wording so that you can be confident your directive is legally binding. A lawyer can bring up things you would not have considered otherwise, so you fully prepare for all scenarios. Most lawyers right now are working remotely. You can call or email them to discuss your advance directive, so you get this important document created without risking infection.

The Knee Law Firm is here for all your Hackensack estate planning needs. In addition to helping draft advance medical directives, we can also assist with wills, trusts, and other helpful estate planning documents. We have over 60 years of combined legal experience. Find out more about our services by calling 201-996-1200 or emailing us now.