Rice and Rice

Healthcare Decision-Making

Healthcare Decision-Making


“If you do not have an advance directive and are unable to choose medical care or treatment, Indiana law decides who can do this for you. Indiana Code § 16-36 allows any member of your immediate family (meaning your spouse, parent, adult child, brother, or sister) or a person appointed by a court to make the choice for you. If you cannot communicate and do not have an advance directive, your physician will try to contact a member of your immediate family. Your health care choices will be made by the family member that your physician is able to contact. “
Advanced Directives: Your Right to Decide

What happens if you cannot communicate with an EMT, Emergency Room personnel, or a doctor?
Many people make the assumption that a spouse or parent has the clear right to make a decision on your behalf if you are not able to answer a doctor’s request.

Unfortunately, that is not the case in Indiana. As referenced above, without proper documentation, the State identifies a class of people, all equal from the State’s perspective, to be involved in decision-making. Lacking a clear decision, a guardianship proceeding may be required.

In Indiana, the State divides health-related appointments into a Healthcare Power of Attorney and Healthcare Representative. The two positions carry different responsibilities, but, because most people want the same person in both positions (as most people do not know there is a difference or why), most attorneys create a single document appointing a person or series of people as both positions.

The person granting authority to another (called the “principal”) – can set some limits. One big concern many people express when setting up their healthcare powers is whether they maintain their own decision-making. The answer is “Yes.” The transfer of health decision-making happens when you are no longer able to communicate with doctors.

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