Assigning someone to make health-care decisions on your behalf

Who would make health-care decisions for you in the event you are unable to express your desires yourself? Do you believe your spouse has the right to make those decisions for you? Can your children decide for you? Can your parents? Only you have the right to make those decisions. No one else can exercise that right on your behalf.

So what happens if you are severely injured in a car wreck to such an extent that you are on life support in a persistent vegetative state? According to the law, you would continue on that support until your natural death unless you have expressed your desire not to continue in a "clear and convincing" manner or unless you have appointed someone to act as your agent to make those health-care decisions for you.

Missouri law provides a mechanism to prepare a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care, allowing you to give someone else the authority to make these kinds of decisions for you. The Durable Power of Attorney only becomes effective in the event you are incapacitated and unable to make these decisions yourself. In addition, you may prepare a Health Care Directive, which will fulfill the requirement that your intentions regarding health care be made in a "clear and convincing" manner.

Forms for your use are available at Although it is not necessary to have an attorney prepare these forms for you, as with all legal documents, I advise you to discuss them with an attorney. As a Missouri NEA member, finding an attorney to discuss this issue and others is easy. Simply select an attorney near you in the MNEA Attorney Referral Program. Find a list of participating attorneys and more information about the program in your MNEA Pocket Calendar or visit the Attorney Referral Program page.

By Jacqueline Shipma, former director of legal services