An Advance Health Care Directive (AHCD) allows you to appoint another person (“agent”) to make health care decisions for you if you become temporarily or permanently unable to make those decisions for yourself.
You can select any adult person to be your agent. Since this person will be making important medical decisions for you, you should select someone who is familiar with your wishes, values and religious beliefs. You should also have trust and confidence in this person. Once you have selected someone, you should discuss this with him/her to make sure that they understand their responsibilities and agree to accept the responsibility.
You CANNOT select any of the following people as your agent, unless s/he is either related to you by blood, marriage, or adoption; or s/he is employed by the same treating health care provider, community care facility or residential care facility for the elderly that employs you:
- your treating health care provider;
- an operator of a community care facility;
- an operator of a residential care facility for the elderly; or
- an employee of your treating health care provider, community care facility or a residential care facility for the elderly.
The AHCD will become effective only when you are unable to make your own health care decisions and the agent that you selected consents to start making the decisions for you.
Your agent can make almost every treatment decision that you could make, unless you have elected to limit the agent’s authority. However, your agent is prohibited from (1) committing you to a mental health treatment facility; (2) authorizing convulsive treatment therapy; (3) authorizing psychosurgery; (4) authorizing sterilization; or (5) authorizing an abortion.
In order for the AHCD to be valid, you must sign and date the AHCD. If you are unable to sign, someone else can sign the document in your presence and at your direction.
Once the document is signed, the AHCD must either be witnessed by 2 qualified adults or acknowledged before a notary public. If you are having the AHCD witnessed by 2 qualified adults, at least one of these witnesses cannot be a beneficiary of your estate at the time of your death or related to you by blood, marriage or adoption. If you are in a skilled nursing care facility or a long term health care facility, at least one of the witnesses must be a patient advocate or ombudsman designated by the California State Department of Aging.
The only people who CANNOT witness your signature are: (1) a health care provider or an employee of a health care provider; (2) an operator or an employee of an operator of a community care facility; or (3) an operator or an employee of an operator of a residential care facility for the elderly.