Indiana has joined other states in specifying an order of priority for health care decision-making. House Bill 1119 establishes which parties can make health care decisions for an adult who:
- is incapable of consenting to medical treatment (too physically or mentally impaired, or unconscious)
- has not appointed a health care representative
How does the process work under the new law?
1. The health care provider must make reasonable inquiry (by examining medical records and personal effects), attempting to locate and contact persons who can act on behalf of the patient.
2. The law establishes a specific order of priority, (from most preferred to least preferred) of individuals who can make health care decisions for the patient in the absence of legal documentation appointing a representative:
- judicially appointed guardian or representative
- spouse (but not one who is legally separated from the patient or where a petition is pending for separation or annulment)
- adult child
- adult sibling
- adult grandchild
- nearest other adult relative
- adult friend (one who has maintained regular contact and is familiar with the individual’s activities, health, and religious or moral beliefs
- religious superior
House Enrolled Act 1119, remember, is designed to establish priority when the patient has not appointed a health care representative. At Geyer Law, a health care proxy document, which allows you to give another individual legal authority to make health care decisions for you, is an important part of the estate planning process. A second document, the living will, allows you to determine if you want your life artificially prolonged by tubes and machines if you’re suffering from an incurable illness or injury.
House Bill 1119 contains a second section referring to a document about end-of-life decisions called a POST or POLST (Physician Order for Life Sustaining Treatment). While your living will is part of your legal documents, a POST is a medical order signed by a doctor, Advance Nurse Practitioner, or Physician Assistant, referring to immediate treatments. POSTS are usually recommended for terminally ill or very frail seniors, dailycaring.com explains.
Although it’s a positive development that Indiana law now prioritizes who may make medical decisions on your behalf, advance directives ensure that your wishes are respected.
– by Rebecca W. Geyer