Nothing is more important than a person's health. However, what happens if a person is not able to make their own decisions about their health or medical treatment due to a serious illness or accident?
Prior to serious illness or injury, the law requires that every patient be given the opportunity to be an informed participant in their health care decisions. However, certain illnesses or accidents can cause a patient to lack the requisite competence to make health-related decisions.
In the event a person becomes incapacitated to the point that they can no longer make health care decisions on their own, there are two ways to give the decision making power to another individual: A Durable Power of Attorney or a Living Will.
Durable Powers of Attorney and Living Wills in Nevada
NRS 449.800 states that a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care is a document that is signed, dated and witnesses naming another person, i.e., a husband, wife, daughter, son, or close friend as an agent to make medical decisions on behalf of the patient in the event the patient is not able to make the decision themselves. This type of document is much broader in scope than a Living Will in that it covers any potential medical decisions instead of merely addressing life-sustaining treatment.
Power of Attorney documents may be changed or canceled, after they are created, at any time. Any change must be in writing, be signed and dated and in accordance with Nevada law.
A Living Will is known as a “Declaration” in Nevada which directs a physician to withhold or withdraw life-sustaining treatment. The Living Will goes into effect only if the patient has an incurable and irreversible condition that will result in death without life-sustaining treatment and if the patient is unable to communicate their desires.
If a writing, such as a Durable Power of Attorney or a Living Will, is unable to be created, any change made verbally to a doctor will carry more weight than the actual Durable Power of Attorney so long as the wishes are the product of the patient and are able to be communicated.
Both the Durable Power of Attorney and the Living Will remain effective so long as the creator of the document is alive, unless a specific revocation of the document(s) is made or a court steps in. Examples of a court interfering with a Durable Power of Attorney or a Living Will include: A court invalidating a document because a claim is made that the patient was not of sound mind when they ratified the document; a court removes the agent status because it is believed the appointed agent does not have the patient's best interest in mind; a court removing a former spouse as agent after a legal divorce if the spouse was named as the health care agent in which case an alternative agent will take over.
Need a Family Law Attorney in Nevada?
If you need assistance in creating a Durable Power of Attorney or a Living Will, seek the help of qualified and experienced legal counsel. Las Vegas Defense Group has years of experience in this area and can be reached at 702-DEFENSE (702-333-3673).