A Minnesota Health Care Directive helps you communicate your medical preferences in situations where you can’t communicate them on your own. This communication is done either through the agent/s you assign, or via written instructions in your health care directive.
1. What is a Minnesota Health Care Directive?
As stated in Minnesota Statutes Section 145C.02, a Minnesota Health Care Directive is a legal document drafted to ensure that your needs are known even if you are unable to communicate them for yourself. You can put your wishes in writing so your health care providers can follow them to the letter, or you may appoint a person, or persons, referred to as health care agent(s), to make health care decisions for you.
The following list includes important 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 who are 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 any type of health care.
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, as well as a background of his or her values as they relate to health care.
Act in good faith – to act in accordance with 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 a Minnesota 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 provides instructions for medical treatment and end-of-life care, while a durable power of attorney for health care simply appoints a health care agent to make medical decisions for you. The Minnesota Health Care Directive combines both documents into one simple form. This change went into effect on August 1, 1998.
2. Who Should Have a Minnesota Health Care Directive?
Any Minnesota resident over the age of 18 should consider having a Minnesota Health Care Directive. While you may still be young and healthy, accidents do happen. It’s important to make your intentions known or to 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. He or she must remain calm in a crisis, and be unafraid to communicate with your 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
In accordance with Minnesota Statutes Section 145C.06, Subd. 2, none of your health care providers are allowed to be your health care agent. The only exception to this 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 as such.
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 Minnesota 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. In the event of a primary agent being unable or unwilling to complete his or her 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 Make?
In Minnesota, your agent will have certain powers, 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
- Choosing 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, as well as whether you should be cremated or buried.
What Decisions Are Your Agents Unable to Make?
Minnesota law explicitly states that you cannot request, via instructions or through your agent, any unreasonable treatment outside of standard medical practices. It also strictly forbids any instructions pertaining to mercy killing or assisted suicide.
To empower your agent with non-medical decision making powers, use a Minnesota power of attorney form.
When is Your Agent Able to Begin Making Decisions?
Usually, a Minnesota Health Care Directive, in accordance with 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 states when the document should go into effect. Minnesota law also states that you can allow your agent to make health care decisions on your behalf even if you are still able to make decisions for yourself.
5. What to do if You Change Your Mind
How Long is Your Minnesota Health Care Directive Effective?
Your Minnesota Health Care Directive is effective until it’s changed or cancelled. Even those documents created before the August 1998 law change are still considered effective as long as they were never revoked or rewritten. That said, 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
In accordance with Minnesota Statutes Section 145C.03, any Minnesota health care directive is considered legal as long as it’s in writing, dated, states your name, and is signed by you or an authorized representative. The document must either contain health care instructions or assign an agent to make health care decisions. Above all, the document must be created at a time when you are considered to be competent and can state your own wishes.
Do You Need a Witness / Notary Public Signatures?
Your Minnesota Health Care Directive must be either notarized or signed by two different witnesses.
What to do with Your Signed Minnesota Health Care Directive
Once you draft your Minnesota Health Care Directive, it’s crucial that you inform your family, friends and health care providers of its existence. You should make copies and ensure that everyone affected by your future plans has one. Keep at least one copy in a safe place where it can be easily found.