At What Age Should You Sign a Health Care Directive?
Should people of all ages have a health care proxy and other medical documents?
Yes. Even though you’re less likely to become ill or especially demented when you’re younger, an accident can happen to anyone. It’s important that you choose the person you want to make medical decisions for you, that that person have access to your medical information, and that she knows your wishes about medical care. Without a health care proxy (or durable power of attorney in some states), along with a health care directive and HIPAA release, that person may not be able to intervene or there may be a struggle between family members about who has the right to make decisions. As soon as you reach age 18, your parents no longer have the automatic right to make decisions for you, so that’s when you should sign your medical directives.
There’s something here that I learned recently. I had thought that all states were like Massachusetts, where no one has any rights to medical information or the right to make health care decisions for someone who is incapacitated unless they have a health care proxy or court-appointed guardian. But it turns out that some states do give these rights to close relatives in order of priority similar to intestacy laws. So, in those states if you don’t have a health care proxy or a spouse or children, your parents would have the right to make health care decisions for you. If that’s not what you want, you’d better execute a health care proxy.
Here’s a site with links to health care documents for every state.