Talk to your teens about future medical decisions

Discussions about end-of-life decisions are not easy, but they are necessary to ensure that you and your loved ones’ wishes are fulfilled in the event of illness or devastating accident. Generally these discussions involve spouses and their siblings and parents. But what about your young adult children?

It is a wake-up call for many parents to discover that once their children turn 18 ‑ and they are considered adults in the eyes of the law ‑ they have limited rights to obtain information impacting their future or to make decisions on their behalf.

Take a heartbreaking scenario that your 19-year-old son is involved in a serious car wreck coming home one weekend from college. He is unable to communicate with doctors about what hospital he wants to be transported to – a regional trauma center versus the local hospital – much less to direct them on what treatment he would like. Without a medical advanced directive, as a parent, you wouldn’t either.

Another difficult, but all-too-realistic situation, would be if your young adult child were diagnosed with a rare disease or disorder that requires significant and sometimes intricate medical treatment. A young teen would likely not have the knowledge or experience to make proper decisions in that case.

Therefore, we suggest discussing with your attorney and your young adult children the advantages of executing an advanced directive. Through this, a primary health care agent would be assigned (likely you as the parent) who would be permitted to make health care decisions for your child in the event he or she is unable to communicate or simply would like for the health care agent to make health care decisions on his or her behalf.

The advanced directive also includes provisions that establish guardianship if the adult child should become incapacitated and is no longer able to care for himself or herself. This can help streamline the guardianship process through the Probate Courts in this event.

Finally, the advanced directive outlines the child’s preferences for end-of-life treatment for terminal conditions.

This is a decision that must be made between you and your child, under the guidance of an attorney. It’s important to remember that the attorney would treat your child as the client, since he or she would be the one to sign the documents and execute them.

Please let us know if we can help guide you in any way.