Anatomy of the Minnesota Health Care Directive

What is a Health Care Directive?  Simply put, a Health Care Directive is a written document that lets people know what your wishes are regarding your own health care - to be used when you are incapacitated and unable to make decisions for yourself.  Health care directives can range from being very detailed to very simple.  Here are the basics of what a health care directive entails.  In Minnesota, a Health Care Directive has two main parts:  (1) Appointment of Health Agent, and (2) Health Care Instructions.

Appointment of Health Agent.  This section of a health care directive allows you to name another person to make your health care decisions if you are unable to decide or speak for yourself.  Your agent must be over 18 years old and generally cannot be your attending physician or their employees.  Take care when naming your health care agent.  Make sure it is someone you trust and someone that is both able and willing to act according to your wishes.  Speak to them regarding your wishes to make sure they are willing to act and understand your preferences.  It is good practice to name an alternative health care agent as well, in case your primary agent is not available to act on your behalf.

Health Care Instructions.  This section of a health care directive allows you to give instructions that guide others in making health care decisions for you.  Your guide can be as detailed as you'd like.  You can write down your values and beliefs about health care.  You can leave specific instructions regarding specific medical procedures, situations, and treatments.  You can state who you want to be your doctor and where you want to receive care.  You can even leave instructions regarding organ donation and funeral arrangements.

Requirements and Execution.  You must be at least 18 years old to create a Minnesota health care directive.  The document must be written, dated, and signed prior to you becoming incapacitated.  Your signature must then be verified either by a notary public or by two witnesses who are not your agent or your health care provider. 

Do you need a health care directive?  You really should have one.  Be proactive.  Many people put off creating a health care directive, believing that they are too young or that nothing will happen to them right now.  The point of a health care directive is to plan for the unexpected - when you are incapacitated and unable to make decisions for yourself.  Health care directives are cheap, simple to create, and can be easily revoked or changed in the future.  They should be a part of all estate plans, for all ages and income levels.  A basic form is contained in Minn. Stat. Section 145C.16.