Friday, November 4, 2011

Directives to Physicians and Family

by Carrie E. Campbell, J.D.

Among the ways to minimize the burden on your family and friends is the execution of a Directive to Physicians and Family which clearly identifies your wishes regarding medical treatments and artificial life support with regards to both terminal and irreversible conditions.

Once just a short statement, Directives now include definitions and explanations drafted by the state legislature which assist all those involved to understand the choices to be made. For example, an irreversible condition is defined as "a condition, injury, or illness: (1) that may be treated, but is never cured or eliminated; (2) that leaves a person unable to care for or make decisions for the person’s own self; and (3) that, without life-sustaining treatment provided in accordance with the prevailing standard of medical care, is fatal."  In contrast, a terminal condition is defined as "an incurable condition caused by injury, disease, or illness that according to reasonable medical judgment will produce death within six months, even with available life-sustaining treatment provided in accordance with the prevailing standard of medical care." As applied there are many illnesses such as cancer or Alzheimers which may be irreversible in early stages, but only become terminal much later once the disease is advanced. Another helpful term outlined by the Texas Congress is "life-sustaining treatment" which among other things specifically includes "both life sustaining medications and artificial life support such as mechanical breathing machines, kidney dialysis treatment, and artificial hydration and nutrition," but moreover does not include "the administration of pain management medication, the performance of a medical procedure necessary to provide comfort care, or any other medical care provided to alleviate a patient’s pain."

With these definitions as a foundation, you may select your choices for various scenarios, as well as any particular wishes you may have regarding a specific medical treatment. For more information or to have your Directive prepared, you should contact an attorney of your choice. 

If you would like to speak to one of the attorneys at Mounger and Campbell, LLC about this or any other legal topic, you may ask us to contact you or call 512-847-1308.

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