New Mexico Living Wills and Advance Healthcare Directives
An advance healthcare directive is a document in which you state your desires in the event that you are medically incapacitated and unable to speak for yourself. The directive tells your healthcare providers how you want to be treated in certain circumstances and names a person of your choice to make difficult decisions on your behalf. Without an advance healthcare directive, doctors, or sometimes your spouse or other relation not of your choosing, will be making the decisions for you.
In New Mexico, the statutory advance healthcare directive takes the place of a living will. Therefore, while you may have heard of living wills and you may have been told that you need one, in New Mexico only the advance healthcare directive is authorized by statute and required.
Some doctors, hospitals, and health insurance companies offer their own forms for an advance healthcare directive. These forms are most likely legally sufficient, but signing multiple different forms with multiple providers raises the possibility of confusion if the forms do not have identical provisions and/or you do not fill them all out the same way. It is best to complete one legally valid form and provide it to healthcare providers as appropriate.
When you only want to have a DNR (do not resuscitate) order, you can usually handle this with a simple form from your healthcare providers.
Who Needs an Advance Healthcare Directive in New Mexico?
While most healthy people think that they do not need to worry about an advance healthcare directive, nothing could be further from the truth. When a medical emergency arises and the patient is unable to make his or her own decisions, it is too late to get an advance directive in place. The patient’s treatment preferences will not be known and the person who should make decisions will not be legally authorized to do so. Completing an advance healthcare directive now—even if you have no current medical conditions—will ensure your wishes are followed if you are ever unable to speak for yourself in the future.
Items Typically Included in an Advance Healthcare Directive in New Mexico
Everyone has their own preferences, and it is up to you what is included in your advance healthcare directive. You may specify your wishes or leave future decisions entirely up to your agent. Specific directives may include:
- You don’t want the use of particular equipment, such as dialysis or ventilators, used to keep you alive.
- You don’t want to have a feeding tube, IV, or other apparatus for nourishment if you are unable to eat or drink.
- You don’t want to be given particular medications or treatments, such as psychotropic medications or blood transfusions.
- You want to ensure your viable organs are donated upon your death.
Most people don’t think about having a living will or advance healthcare directive until they are diagnosed with a life-threatening medical condition. Even then, you might be tempted to put it off. Remember that if you don’t make your wishes known to your medical providers, you may not be given the choice.
If you have a mental illness, New Mexico offers a separate statute and form for mental health advance directives (also sometimes referred to as psychiatric advance directives). This form can be incredibly valuable if your mental illness is a type that is treatable but makes you susceptible to relapse. Contact us at 575-339-2100 to discuss this special type of directive and how it can help you.