Changes to Indiana Law Impact Health Care Decisions

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Recent changes to Indiana law impact those who are unable to make their own health care decisions.  Under the newly enacted Indiana code section, the following are prohibited from making health care decisions:

  • A spouse who is legally separated or with whom the individual has a pending divorce action
  • A person who may not contact the individual because of a protective order
  • An alleged perpetrator of a crime against the individual with pending criminal charges

If you do not have Health Care Directives in place, Indiana now has a new hierarchical order for health care decision making.  The order of priority is:

  1. Court-appointed guardian
  2. Spouse
  3. Adult children
  4. Parent
  5. Adult siblings
  6. Grandparents
  7. Grandchildren
  8. Close relatives
  9. Close friends
  10. A religious superior.

In all cases, it is crucial that individuals make their own choice of health care decision maker before they become incapacitated so this hierarchy does not need to be invoked.  No one wants to have their adult children, for example, arguing over the proper course of medical treatment or end of life decisions.  However, by law, without health care directives, each adult child has the same authority as all other adult children. 

Finally, there have been some modifications to the POST form.  “POST” stands for “physician order for scope of treatment.”  Individuals who are suffering from an advanced chronic progressive illness, such as late stage cancer, or from a condition where death will occur within a short period of time are eligible to fill out a POST form with their health care provider.  The individual can indicate their wishes about CPR, comfort measures, extent of medical interventions, antibiotics, and artificial nutrition.  The statutory modifications focus on allowing nurse practitioners and physician assistants to complete the form with individuals in addition to physicians.

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