Durable Powers of Attorney, Euthanasia, and DNRs

By Angel Marin Diaz 

Mat and Cindy from Portland, Oregon:

Hi Angel, we follow your column religiously, thank you for all the spot-on information! Our question is about DNRs. We have heard varying information from the way far left—that euthanasia is, if not “legal” certainly “available,” to a far-right perspective that DNRs are not available legally in Mexico due to its Catholic history. What is the real situation concerning rights to “end of life” choice?  

Angel responds:

Hi Mat and Cindy, this is an extremely sensitive topic which often can be confusing. To bring some clarity I will tackle “euthanasia” first. Suicide, attempted suicide, and assisted suicide are all illegal. There are varying degrees of penalties which are determined as to the “property” (physical body) which is damaged, ranging to “dead” or “almost dead” meaning a failed suicide or failed assisted suicide. In almost all cases the penalties are of a felony classification resulting in potential corporal punishment (imprisonment) of 2 to 10 years. When doctors or medical staff are involved, loss of medical licenses is an included punishment along with possible imprisonment.

The situation on DNRs is more straightforward and at the same time slightly different than one might expect. In Mexico, the preservation of life as a constitutional right is strictly upheld, due to its constitutional mandate which may or may not have arisen from our Catholic heritage—read between the lines. This being said, once we are “plugged in” to any form of life support, we in theory would not be able to be “legally” unplugged without falling into the previous category of “assisted suicide.”

However, when we have an Advance Medical Directive properly written by an attorney, ratified by a Notary, and registered at a municipal, state, and federal level we may “opt-out” of all forms of artificial life support as described by our directive. One might interpret this to say that we can choose to NOT be “plugged in” and are NOT allowed to choose to be “unplugged”, a small, yet VERY IMPORTANT difference.

The Advance Medical Directive will cover with great specificity all foreseeable situations by which, through this legislated legal document, we may give direction to when and where artificial life support would be acceptable for each individual, and where and under what circumstances we choose to refrain from ventilators, feeding machines or other forms of stimulus.

As an important footnote, the next of kin or spouse can NOT express these wishes if they are not written in this format, meaning that a spouse, child, or parent would not be able to make this decision in the ER for their significant other, even if they were aware of their wishes; when they are not expressly documented and registered with the state.

Debbie and Joaquin Smith, Hawaii:

Hi Angel, what is a “Durable Power of Attorney” and when would I use this document?

Angel responds: 

Hello Debbie and Joaquin, nice to hear from you again.

As you know, Debbie, having successfully gone through the probate process once already here in Mexico, the process can be slow (your case was 2.5 years and uncontested as I recall), and costly. A “durable” POA in Mexico is different from a regular POA, which most commonly is granted in a range of areas beginning with a “simple” POA which is witnessed, but with no requirement of being notarized for simple acts of administration. Other types of POAs are granted in front of a Notario, written according to strict legislated standards, and registered in the municipal and state registry where granted. Each power granted to the empowered party must be written with great specificity and can range from medical powers to the maximum power of dominion, which would allow the empowered party to sell or buy real property, grant or acquire debt, as well as invest or divest of investment instruments.

All POAs, with the exception of the durable POA when written under federal article 2600-2603, extinguish (end) at the end of the grantor’s life or at the end of five years—this time frame can vary under individual civil codes from state to state. The durable POA is most useful for administrative acts before health insurance companies, life insurance, hospitals, and public registries, and in acquiring state and federal documents on behalf of the deceased. This, along with the Last Will and Testament, Advance Medical Directive, and depending on one’s philosophy, a Mexican version of the DNR, would be the appropriate documents to contemplate for a well-prepared and responsible preparation of end-of-life documents for use in Mexico.

Thank you all for your questions this week. For more specific information on Inmtec Legal Services™, Inmtec Title Services™, Inmtec Insurance™, Estate Planning, Asset Protection, and AfterLife™ Medical Advocacy by Inmtec™, please contact Angel Marin Díaz at info@inmtec.net, 415 121 9005 or www.inmtec.com

*AfterLife™ Medical Advocacy is a national program available exclusively through Inmtec™ that sees to the professional production of all the documents needed to oversee issues such as medical advocacy, pre and post-death planning, the care and transport of physical remains, and all issues regarding probate and emergency contact communication with friends and family for the peaceful transition of assets.