Health Care Directives

A health care directive is a document designed to address a person’s health care decisions when they are unable to communicate those decisions themselves, whether due to incompetence, unconsciousness, or physical limitations.  If an adult patient is unable to make or communicate health care decisions, then health care providers are required to make a reasonable effort to locate and follow health care directives and consult with the surrogate decision maker for the patient.

Pursuant to Arizona law, surrogates are given priority in the following order:  court appointed guardian; designated agent under health care power of attorney; spouse (unless legally separated); adult child or majority of adult children if more than one; parent; domestic partner, if unmarried and no one else assumes financial responsibility; sibling; and close friend who exhibited care and concern and is familiar with health care views of patient.  If no one is available or willing to act as surrogate, the attending physician may make a decision after consulting with an institutional ethics committee.  If no committee exists, the attending physician may consult with another physician.

Arizona provides for four types of health care directives.  They are the Health Care Power of Attorney, the Pre-Hospital Medical Care Directive, the Living Will, and the Mental Health Care Power of Attorney.