Not all estate planning tools affect what happens after death. In Louisiana, advance medical directives provide direction regarding health care decisions. 

According to the Louisiana Department of Health, through an advance medical directive, adults can plan for the medical care they need before they need it through a health care power of attorney, living will and a “do not resuscitate” order.

Peoples Health explains that a medical care provider can only follow an advance directive if it complies with the law. However, even if it is completely legal, a doctor may not be able to follow it if he or she has valid professional or religious reasons. In that case, that doctor must transfer the patient to another health care provider who is willing to honor the requirements made in the advance directive.

Once someone creates a living will and DNR order, these belong in his or her medical record. A copy should be provided to each health care provider, and it can also be registered with the Secretary of State.

A health care power of attorney appoints a person to make medical decisions on the patient’s behalf. This may be in situations where the patient cannot make his or her own decisions, but it could be expanded to include broader circumstances, even if the patient is physically and mentally able to make the decisions alone.

If there is no advance directive and a patient cannot communicate his or her wishes, a medical care provider will turn first to the legal guardian or spouse for answers when health care decisions must be made. If there is no guardian or spouse, then the doctor will ask adult children, or if there are none, then parents, siblings, other relatives or an adult friend.