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Law Lingo: Personal Autonomy

Welcome to Law Lingo: a monthly blog series brought to you by The Brown Law Firm, LLC that explains estate planning terminologies in simple terms. This month we will explain the concept of personal autonomy.

Personal autonomy is the ability to live life on your own terms, according to your own belief system and preferences – regardless of how other people may feel about your choices. Personal autonomy can be as simple as choosing what to eat for dinner or what types of clothes to wear. It also applies to more significant life choices such as where to live, what friends to have, what career to pursue and what religious beliefs you want to follow (if any).

In short, personal autonomy is freedom.

Unfortunately, freedom can be cut short. We are not talking freedom lost due to incarceration, but rather freedom temporarily or permanently lost if you should become incapacitated due to an injury, disease, etc. Consider how your life might change if you were not able to voice your own opinion about how people cared for you, what they fed you, what medical treatment was provided (or withdrawn) and how your money was spent. It would be a helpless feeling.

The good news is that there are ways to protect your personal autonomy if the unthinkable should happen – things you can do right now while you are healthy and living a full life.

Legal Documents to Safeguard Your Personal Autonomy

Your estate plan should include certain documents that outline how you want to be cared for if you become incapacitated as well as who you would want to make decisions on your behalf. It is easy to keep putting these decisions on the back-burner but these are important documents that will safeguard your personal autonomy.

  • Financial power of attorney: designates a person to handle your financial affairs for you and carry out your financial wishes
  • Medical power of attorney: designates a person to make health care decisions for you and ensure medical personnel follow your wishes
  • Living will: states your wishes for end-of-life medical care such as mechanical ventilation, tube feeding, dialysis, etc.
  • DNR: Do Not Resuscitate order
  • HIPAA authorization: allows your doctors to share your medical information with your loved ones

Still confused by personal autonomy or any other legal terms? The Denver estate lawyers at The Brown Law Firm, LLC are here to help. Contact us at (303) 339-3750 or send us a message online to meet with our experts.