Healthcare Directives in the Age of COVID-19; How Can You Ensure Your Wishes Are Met Under Wisconsin Law?

In Wisconsin, many people include end-of-life directives within the terms of their healthcare power of attorney document. In part, the document allows you to address your wishes with regard to resuscitation efforts in serious medical situations.

In the case of COVID-19, questions may arise related to whether to resuscitate an unconscious individual in an Intensive Care Unit. Currently, standard treatment of serious COVID-19 cases includes use of a ventilator. You may want your healthcare power of attorney document to address when a ventilator will be used and when it will be removed.

COVID and DNR directives

If you have already given a “Do Not Resuscitate” (DNR) order by way of a medical bracelet or healthcare power of attorney, you will want to decide if that order should stand in the case of COVID-19 illness.

If your wishes for COVID-19 treatment are different than they might be in other instances, you may need to clarify in your directives and with your family how you want the situation handled. One way to do this is to add an addendum to your healthcare power of attorney form.

Consider also that with COVID-19, it is unlikely your healthcare agent (the person you choose to make decisions on your behalf if incapacitated) will be allowed in the hospital with you at the time of your illness. Thus, it is harder for your agent to determine how sick you are and if you should receive resuscitation efforts. You will want to be sure you have given your agent specific powers, by way of a HIPAA medical records authorization, to obtain and review your medical records online.

What can you do to ensure your end-of-life wishes are met?

There are many circumstances under which a person would or would not want a ventilator or resuscitation efforts. The advance directives in your healthcare power of attorney should be updated to make it clear what you wish to happen. In a COVID-19 scenario, you might not want to keep your blanket DNR directive in place. Murphy Desmond’s experienced estate planning lawyers can assist by providing an addendum to your healthcare power of attorney for COVID-19 specifically.

Contact our attorneys today by calling 608.257.7181 or emailing us at to assist you with this update and other updates to your current will. Murphy Desmond has offices in Madison, Appleton, Janesville, and Dodgeville, Wisconsin, where we can assist with all of your estate planning and probate needs.

Published October 27, 2020