Have you planned for who will make healthcare decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so yourself? On April 30, 2019, Washington Governor Jay Inslee signed into law a bill that includes two significant changes to Washington law. First, it expands the hierarchy of who has authority to make health care decisions for patients unable to make decisions on their own behalf. Second, it revises the execution requirements for Health Care Directives. The law, EHB 1175 “An Act Relating to Authorization of Health Care Decisions by an Individual or Designated Persons,” became effective on July 28, 2019.
First, suppose a patient is unable to make health care choices due to incapacity, and that patient neither executed a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care Decisions nor had a guardian appointed on their behalf? The new law expands the list of people who can make healthcare decisions for a patient under these circumstances. These decision makers, in the order of their priority, are:
- A spouse or state-registered domestic partner;
- Children age 18 and older:
- Adult siblings;
- Adult grandchildren “who are familiar with the patient;”
- Adult nieces and nephews “who are familiar with the patient;”
- Adult aunts and uncles “who are familiar with the patient” or, finally;
- An adult who “has exhibited special care and concern for the patient, is familiar with the patient’s personal values, is reasonably available to make health care decisions,” and is not “[a] physician to the patient or an employee of the physician, the owner, administrator, or employee of a healthcare facility, nursing home, or long-term care facility where the patient resides or receives care, or a person who receives compensation to provide care to the patient.” Such an adult must sign a declaration sworn under penalty of perjury, but a health care provider is not required to accept it.
In addition, the new law clarifies that, even though a decisionmaker has the authority to make certain health care decisions for the patient, the decision maker may not request or obtain medication to end the patient’s life. Rather than forcing your family to go down this road of determining who can make decisions for you, consider making the decision for yourself while you are able by executing a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care Decisions.
Second, the new law allows for a Health Care Directive to be signed in the presence of a notary as an alternative to the prior requirement of that a Health Care Directive must be signed in the presence of two qualified witnesses.
Do you have any questions regarding who will make your health care choices if you are unable to make them for yourself? Please let us know, we’d be happy to help.