“The moment of death, like that of birth, is our time of greatest need.” ~Andrew Holecek
COVID-19 has brought us face to face with our mortality and the hazards of critical illness. We could be placed in isolation or on ventilators. We may become incapable of making our healthcare decisions.
If we can’t answer doctors’ questions like, “Do you want to try this new drug or receive palliative care,” who will?
Breathe deeply. This is heavy stuff, and it gets heavier.
Who will make your healthcare decisions if you become ill during separation or divorce and cannot express your wishes?
The answer for California residents is, it depends. If you don’t have written instructions to the contrary and you haven’t revoked an earlier grant of power, in all likelihood, your spouse or partner will decide the type and extent of medical and end-of-life care you receive.
Does this make you exhale a sigh of relief or recoil? If it’s the latter, and you don’t want your husband, wife, or partner to make critical care and end-of-life decisions for you, act now.
Create or amend your Advance Health Care Directive, living will, or Medical Power of Attorney. Provide clear written instructions about the types of treatment you do and do not want to receive. Identify whomever you entrust to make medical decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated. Without these legal documents, family, spouses, doctors, and judges could wrestle with critical decisions when every minute matters.
California Probate Code empowers you to expressly state your wishes and identify the person you trust with your healthcare decisions.
California Family Law Automatic Temporary Restraining Orders in the Summons don’t prohibit you from changing your medical directives or Durable Powers of Attorney for Health Care. You also can revoke a Durable Power of Attorney that gave your spouse or partner power to legally bind you at any time– you might of signed a DPOA while doing your estate plan during marriage.
I know this is a difficult topic to consider. These resources can help.
UCLA School of Law California Medical Decision Making Forms: Advance Directives, DNR and POLST
MyDirectives is an online system for documenting end-of-life wishes
EverPlans helps you plan for death in the distant future or near term
The Conversation Project, Death Cafe, Death with Dignity, and Zen Caregiving Project provide insight, tools, communities, and professionals to make the process more manageable.
If you or a beloved are ill or you’ve recently lost someone dear, you are in my heart and prayers.
On the day I die, when I’m being carried toward the grave, don’t weep. Don’t say, He’s gone! He’s gone. Death has nothing to do with going away. The sun sets and the moon sets, but they’re not gone. Death is a coming together. The tomb looks like a prison, but it’s really release into union. The human seed goes down in the ground like a bucket into the well where Joseph is. It grows and comes up full of some unimagined beauty. Your mouth closes here and immediately opens with a shout of joy there.” ~Rumi