Ask a JAG: Considering Advance Medical Directives

By Judge Advocate Capt. Matthew N. Karchaske
Chief of Client Services
Stuttgart Legal Center

 Q:  I read that article in “The Stuttgart Citizen” last month–the one about wills, written by that extremely intelligent and handsome JAG officer–and I still don’t want a will. But my first sergeant is still making me go to legal. What’s the deal?

A:  Your first sergeant is a genius and a saint. Even if you aren’t concerned with the disposition of your assets following your (un)timely demise, a trip to the legal office can help smooth your transition out of this mortal coil by providing, at no cost to the service member, two types of advance medical directives: the Living Will and the Durable Power of Attorney for Medical Care.

Picture this: You have been seriously injured in a tragic accident. You are lying in the hospital unconscious, or perhaps, you are merely unresponsive. You cannot communicate your wishes regarding any aspect of your treatment or care. If the question is whether to pull the proverbial plug, your own loved ones are usually either too emotional to do what needs to be done or, possibly, a little too quick to throw in the towel.

This is where your Advance Medical Directives come in.

“A living will is a lawful document that lays out a number of hypothetical, life-threatening situations and your wishes for treatment in each case (do not resuscitate, cease the administration of nutrients, etc.) says Senior U.S. Civilian Attorney John Matlock, Stuttgart Law Center. “This serves to either take the burden off of traumatized family members or to prevent the significantly less-traumatized from taking advantage.”

A Durable Power Of Attorney for medical care places the decision-making power in the hands of a trusted loved one. Whereas the living will only covers a limited set of hypothetical situations, the durable power of attorney allows for someone who knows you best to respond in any situation you might be in, to deal with medical professionals on your behalf.

Without any type of advance medical directive, either the doctors get to have their own way, or the cherished harmony of your beloved family relations could devolve into a protracted and widely televised legal battle over your fate, featuring frequent and unflattering shots of your unresponsive body in a hospital bed with the headline, “Legal Fees for the Family of Unprepared Service Member Now in the Tens of Thousands as Lawsuit Stretches into its Tenth Year.”

Need a lawyer?

For more information on how Advance Medical Directives or a Durable Power Of Attorney might be just what you (may) need, contact the Legal Assistance Office on Kelley Barracks. Call 421-4152 or 0711-7294152.