People often have some misconceptions about their health care as they grow older, about what rights they have and what rights the people around them have. Many people think that their spouse is allowed to make any decisions if they are not able to do so on their own -- if they are in a coma, for example, even one that is medically induced.
If they do not have a spouse, they assume that the next of kin can make choices about medications, procedures and things like this. However, the fact is that there are some choices that only you can make, regardless of your situation, unless you have appropriately designated someone else to do so.
Another misconception is that it is easy to name someone who can make these choices on the fly. People assume that they can just give the nod to their wife while lying on a hospital bed, for instance, and that the doctors will then let her make any choice that she wants. Again, this is just not how it works. There is paperwork that needs to be done, and the spouse is not going to have the ultimate power to make all decisions without it, even if your intent was clear.
That is why people need to use an Advance Directive. This is a Health Care Proxy that clearly states to whom you are giving permission to make decisions for you. It is legally binding and it will hold up in court. In Oklahoma, you can fill this all out long before you need it, just to make sure that you are covered if something unexpected happens.
When it comes to medical directives, it is never too early to make sure that you exercise your right to have others make choices for you if need be.
Source: Taunton Daily Gazette, "Advance Directive is critical when health care decisions need to be made" Deborah Rogers, Feb. 28, 2014