An advance healthcare directive is also known as a living will. It isn't a new concept but it is new to being recognised in the Cayman Islands, following the implementation of the Health Care Decisions Act in 2019. This law allows a person to determine their wishes surrounding medical care and treatment, including end of life care, should they become mentally incompetent, and prepare a legal document to this effect.
Once a directive has been executed, the directive-maker should let their proxy and their lawyer have a copy, let their family know it exists, and it is even possible to request that the hospital attach it to their medical file/record.
What are some important take away points regarding an advance directive?
Critical for the directive-maker to bear in mind is what it can and cannot do. An advance healthcare directive allows the person to decide what they would like a physician to do in the event that the directive-maker becomes mentally incapacitated or otherwise unable to communicate their wishes. To that end the directive will only take effect once the directive-maker is deemed to be mentally incompetent. Like a will, it can be revoked at any time while the directive-maker is mentally competent.
It is important to note that in the Cayman Islands, an advance directive does not authorise euthanasia or assisted suicide.
By operation of the Health Care Decisions Act, 2019 section 16, while a directive is operative, it prevails over any right of an attorney of the directive-maker or of the directive-maker's nearest relative. The Power of Attorney Act, 1996 Revision provides that an instrument created under this law is not an enduring power of attorney, that means once the person is incapacitated the instrument (known as a Power of Attorney) is no longer valid.
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