One of your basic rights is to determine the course of your health care in Los Angeles. Many fear losing such basic rights if they become incapacitated. You can, however, retain the right to dictate how you want to be cared for by medical providers even after you lose the mental capacity to comprehend such a decision by setting up advance directives. These directives are more than just simple wishes; rather, they are the specific instructions to which healthcare personnel are bound to follow when treating you. Thus, the law requires that certain criteria be met before your advance directives are considered valid.
Section 4673 of the California Probate Code states that when setting up a written advance directive, the following three requirements need to be adhered to:
- The document detailing your directives must contain the date of its execution
- The document must be signed by you or another under your direction
- The document must be either signed by two witnesses or acknowledged by a notary public
In this case, any witnesses that sign your advance directive must be adults, and they cannot be your direct health care provider (or any of his or her employees), or the employees of a community or residential care facility where you may be staying. They also cannot be witnessed by one who you have entrusted with power of attorney for health care.
It is important to distinguish individual instructions from advance directives. While advance directives must be recorded, individual instructions can be spoken. They are typically limited in their scope, however. In any event involving advance directives or individual instructions, you must be capable of understanding what it is that you are dictating.