Understanding Psychiatric Advance Directives

In 1990, the United States Supreme Court acknowledged the constitutional right of a patient to decline medical treatment. Over the last couple of decades, New York state has slowly recognized that traditional health care advance directives do not sufficiently deal with mental health issues. Consequently, a large number of states have issued legislation permitting mental health care advance directives. 


New York Law and Psychiatric Advance Directives


A person can utilize New York’s Health Care Agents and Proxies law to nominate an agent to make decisions for them if that individual cannot do so. Additionally, a person might decide to write a living will containing instructions for the mental health care that person would like to receive. 


The Primary Benefits of Psychiatric Advance Directives


One of the primary advantages of psychiatric advance directives is that they help individuals avoid involuntary placement into a mental hospital. As a result, a person who uses a psychiatric advance directive needs not to worry about being arrested by the police, secluded, restrained, or forced to take some types of medications. These end results can be avoided because psychiatric advance directives let individuals communicate the best way to intervene and authorize less intrusive interventions. This strategy improves the chances that people who create these documents will obtain treatment from mental health professionals early enough to avoid involuntary commitment. 


Psychiatric advance directives also help individuals make sure that they continue to receive treatment from the people who have treated them for years. If a person fails to create a directive and ends up experiencing a sudden mental health episode, they will likely end up receiving mental treatment from new mental health professionals. 


Additionally, psychiatric advance directives offer the person creating the document the opportunity to fully consider what they would like their directive to achieve. Creating a psychiatric advance directive can consequently avoid future crises and improve the mental health results that one desires. 


The Downside to Psychiatric Advance Directives


People cite several potential shortcomings to psychiatric advance directives. Some people fear that these directives compromise individual autonomy because these directives let the state intervene in a person’s decisions even when that individual is not a danger to themself or others. Another commonly cited disadvantage is that psychiatric advance directives present an increased risk of undue influence as well as abuse and coercion of individuals by either mental health professionals or the individual’s loved ones. Another common concern is that psychiatric advance directives might be found invalid because consent is not contemporaneous with the treatment a person receives. Some individuals also worry about the risk of unanticipated consequences because the director’s creator experience a change of heart or fails to anticipate certain circumstances.


Speak with a Knowledgeable Elder Law Attorney Today


The elder law process is full of challenges. To make sure that you navigate elder law challenges correctly, one of the best things that you can do is to speak with an experienced elder law attorney. Contact Ettinger Law Firm today to schedule a free case evaluation.

Contact Information