A Minnesota Health Care Directive helps you communicate your medical preferences in situations where you can’t share them independently. This communication is done either through the agent/s you assign or written instructions in your health care directive.
1. What is a Minnesota Health Care Directive?
As stated in Minnesota Statutes Section 145C.02, a Health Care Directive is a legal document drafted to ensure that your needs are known even if you cannot communicate them yourself. You can put your wishes in writing so your healthcare providers can follow them to the letter, or you may appoint a person, referred to as health care agent(s), to make health care decisions for you.
The following list includes essential definitions codified under Minnesota Statutes Section 145C.01:
Principal – any person that has reached the age of 18 and has executed a written health care directive.
Health care agent – a person or persons over the age of 18 years and appointed by the principal in a health care directive to make decisions regarding health care on the principal’s behalf.
Health care decision – the consent or refusal of consent to healthcare.
Health care provider – any person or facility licensed to provide health care.
Health care instructions – written statements that outline a principal’s health care preferences and background of their values related to health care.
Act in good faith – to act following the principal’s wishes as laid out in a legally sufficient health care directive.
Decision-making capacity – having the competence to understand the risks and benefits of a health care decision and the ability to communicate the same.
While an MN Health Care Directive is not usually referred to by any other name, it’s sometimes confused with a living will, durable power of attorney for health care, or medical power of attorney. A living will only provide instructions for medical treatment and end-of-life care. In contrast, a durable power of attorney for health care appoints a health care agent to make medical decisions for you. The Health Care Directive combines both documents into a straightforward form. This change went into effect on August 1, 1998.
2. Who Should Have a Minnesota Health Care Directive?
Any Minnesota resident over 18 should consider having a Health Care Directive. While you may still be young and healthy, accidents do happen. It’s essential to make your intentions known or have a trusted person able to make decisions for you when you cannot do so for yourself.
3. How to Select Your Agent(s)
Who to Select as an Agent
A health care agent in Minnesota must be at least 18 years of age. They must remain calm in a crisis and be unafraid to communicate with the family while advocating on your behalf to doctors and other health care providers.
Furthermore, your agent should be someone who knows you well enough to make the same health care decisions for you that you would make for yourself — if you were able to. This person can be a close friend or relative, but more than anything, this person needs to be trustworthy.
Who Can’t Be Your Agent
Per Minnesota Statutes Section 145C.06, Subd. 2, none of your healthcare providers are allowed to be your healthcare agent. The only exception is if the provider is a relative through blood, adoption, or marriage. Minnesota also notes that a former spouse or registered domestic partner cannot be a health care agent, even if the last written directive has that particular person listed.
Can You Have More Than One Agent?
You are permitted to have more than one health care agent in Minnesota. If you wish to have two or more agents listed on your Health Care Directive, there are two ways you can structure your document.
First, you can select multiple agents who work together to make your health care decisions. Or, you can appoint a primary agent and establish one or more alternate agents. If a primary agent is unable or unwilling to complete their duties, the alternate agent/s can step in and make the necessary health care decisions on your behalf.
4. Decision-Making Power of Your Agents
What Health Care Decisions Are Your Agents Able to Make?
Your agent will have certain powers in Minnesota, as stated in Minnesota Statutes Section 145C.07, unless you decide to limit them in writing. These powers include:
- Refusing, consenting to, and withdrawing any of your health care or mental health care treatments
- Starting or stopping life-sustaining care
- Choosing health care providers
- Deciding whether or not you will reside in a nursing home or hospice
Agents automatically have the right to visit you at any health care facility and review your medical records. They can also pass your medical records to others.
Your agent may also be given the power to decide if your body parts, such as your eyes, organs, and other tissues, are to be donated and whether you should be cremated or buried.
What Decisions Are Your Agents Unable to Make?
Minnesota law explicitly states that you cannot request any unreasonable treatment outside of standard medical practices via instructions or through your agent. It also strictly forbids any instructions about mercy killing or assisted suicide.
Use a Power of Attorney form to empower your agent with non-medical decision-making powers.
When is Your Agent Able to Begin Making Decisions?
Minnesota law also states that you can allow your agent to make health care decisions on your behalf even if you can still make decisions for yourself. Usually, a Health Care Directive, following Minnesota Statutes Section 145C.06, does not go into effect until a Minnesota-licensed physician states that you are incompetent or unable to make decisions for yourself. At other times, the directive itself will contain language that says when the document should go into effect.
5. What to do if You Change Your Mind
How Long is Your Health Care Directive Effective in Minnesota?
Your MN Health Care Directive is effective until it’s changed or canceled. Even those documents created before the August 1998 law change are still considered adequate as long as they were never revoked or rewritten. Those documents should be reviewed to make sure that they meet all the requirements outlined in the current law.
How to Revoke a Minnesota Health Care Directive
Minnesota Statutes Section 145C.09 states that you can cancel your directive by:
- Destroying it
- Replacing it
- Telling at least two other people that you want to cancel it
- Completing a power of attorney revocation form declaring that you would like to cancel it
6. How to Complete Your Minnesota Health Care Directive
Per Minnesota Statutes Section 145C.03, any Health Care Directive is considered legal as long as it’s in writing, dated, specifies your name, and is signed by you or an authorized representative. The document must contain healthcare instructions or assign an agent to make healthcare decisions. Above all, the document must be created when you are considered competent and can state your wishes.
Does a Medical Power of Attorney need to be notarized in Minnesota?
Yes, Your Minnesota Health Care Directive must be either notarized or signed by two different witnesses.
What to do with Your Signed Health Care Directive
Once you draft your Health Care Directive, you must inform your family, friends, and health care providers of its existence. You should make copies and ensure that everyone affected by your plans has one. Keep at least one copy in a safe place where you can easily access it.